'Perfect' Geisenberger Red-Hot On Sanki Ice

by
Reuters
Gold medal favourite Natalie Geisenberger led her rivals a merry dance to move into a commanding position to win a possible first Olympic title after the first two runs in the women's singles on Monday.

Gold medal favourite Natalie Geisenberger led her rivals a merry dance to move into a commanding position to win a possible first Olympic title after the first two runs in the women's singles on Monday.

The German, bronze medallist four years ago, began in scintillating fashion at the Sanki Sliding Centre by setting a track record of 49.891 seconds on her opening slide.

She was nearly half a second quicker than the next best - a massive advantage in luge where tiny fractions matter.

"It was perfect," said the smiling Bavarian police officer, who scorched to a second World Cup title this season by winning seven out of eight races.

The 26-year-old world champion also dipped under 50 seconds on her second attempt to clock a combined 1.39.814 and it will take a monumental error when she returns for two runs on Tuesday to let gold slip from her grasp.

"I'm satisfied with both runs - the second was a little worse," she said. "But I'm not champion yet, I still need two good runs. My lead is comfortable and I feel calm, but there could be many mistakes tomorrow."

Compatriot and 2010 gold medallist Tatjana Huefner trails Geisenberger by 0.766 in second place with American Erin Hamlin third, 0.818 behind the leader.

German women have monopolized Olympic luge medals, having won every gold medal since the Nagano 1998 Olympics. They have also won 10 of the last 12 medals of any colour in the last four Games.

Huefner was given vociferous backing by what appeared to be her own fan club, packed into the small stand at the end of the finishing straight, who held up letters spelling out her name.

She has not given up hope of catching Geisenberger, saying: "We will see what happens, curve five to six is tricky. Natalie still has two more runs as well."

Hamlin put an end to Germany's 12-year world championship reign in 2009 and put herself in position to become the first American to win an Olympic luge singles medal.

Hamlin was second after run one before Huefner relegated her to third, helped by a track record start time on run two.

"I'm in third and I want to get back to second - I'm not looking behind me," she said.

"Coming into this I was just going to have fun... just lay down four clean runs. But I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch but I feel comfortable and it could happen."