By Ian Ransom
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – A day after Felix Loch’s shock meltdown, Germany’s peerless luge team got back on track as reigning champion Natalie Geisenberger emerged in the gold medal position after Monday’s opening runs of the women’s singles.
Twice champion Loch’s failure to seal the deal in the men’s event cast a gloom over the team on Sunday but confident smiles returned as Geisenberger led a German one-two at the top of the timesheets.
With a combined time of one minute 32.454 seconds, the blonde policewoman held a slender lead of 0.12 seconds over fellow German Dajana Eitberger at the Olympic Sliding Centre.
Their compatriot and 2010 champion Tatjana Huefner was in fourth place, another boost for the luge superpower’s hopes of extending their reign over the women’s event to 20 years on Tuesday.
Canada’s Alex Gough was third, and will hope to hold firm in the German maelstrom after just missing out on the medals in Sochi.
Four years ago, Geisenberger went to bed with a massive lead of nearly a second, but the field is wide open this time.
She was also mindful of how it could all come crashing down in the final run, as happened to her long-time team mate Loch, whose title defense was ruined with a single mistake when the gold was there for the taking.
“Yesterday we saw what could happen if you make a little mistake and you have a big, big, big time losing,” the 30-year-old told reporters.
“It was hard for us yesterday because I trained with Felix for almost 20 years. We had so many successes. We’ve been in Sochi, in the team relay, Olympic champions. It was hard.
“That’s sport, that’s life, such mistakes can happen.
“My goal for me tomorrow is hopefully that it will not happen.”
A boisterous crowd lined much of the track and exploded into cheers when German-born Aileen Christina Frisch, a naturalized South Korean citizen, completed a strong second run to place fifth.
Erin Hamlin, the bronze winner in Sochi and first American woman to claim an Olympic luge medal, was sixth.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)