The women's 2014 Winter Olympics singles luge competition got underway on Monday at Sanki Sliding Center in Sochi, Russia, and a familiar fixture reigned supreme at the end of the first two runs.
Germany's Natalie Geisenberger was a bronze medalist at the previous Winter Games, and put together runs that both totaled less than 50 seconds en route to a total time of one minute and 39.834 seconds. That gives Geisenberger an inside track to the gold entering the final two runs on Tuesday.
Here is a look at the standings for the top 10 luge athletes after the first half of the women's singles:
|Position||Name||Country||Run 1||Run 2||Total|
SlidingOnIce.com's Ken Childs highlighted the track records Geisenberger broke on the opening run:
Reigning gold medalist Tatjana Huefner also hails from Germany and is not far behind Geisenberger in second place, trailing by just .766 seconds. Huefner implied that it's the perceptive favorite in Geisenberger who is saddled with the pressure of reaching the podium pinnacle.
"Natalie has pressure," said Huefner, as reported by the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds. "I'm fine."
These two may be on the same team, but there seems to be a strong rivalry beneath the surface here in such an individualistic sport. Huefner was visibly baffled by the time Geisenberger posted on her second run in solidifying her top-ranked status.
At least Huefner managed to move up from third after Run 1, just ahead of USA medal hopeful Erin Hamlin, who is positioned for the bronze in third place with an aggregate 1:40.632 time.
Hamlin seeks to make luge history for the Americans as the first-ever medalist from the U.S., but she already attained a landmark achievement on Monday with her runner-up effort in the first heat, per WKTV's Jill Reale:
Erin Hamlin sets a USA Luge team record in singles at the Winter Olympics. No American has ever been ranked as high as second after one heat— Jill Reale (@TheRealeDeal) February 10, 2014
BuzzFeed Sports made a humorous, self-deprecating quip about the fact that the USA has never secured a luge medal:
It's pretty amazing that the USA has never won a luge medal given that lying on our butts is, as a country, kind of our "thing."— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) February 10, 2014
As reputedly underwhelming as the USA is in this particular event, there were encouraging strides made by Hamlin and even Kate Hansen (10th) and Summer Britcher (15th)—both of whom finished ahead of a prior medalist.
Who will win the gold medal in the women's singles luge?
Reithmayer put together two poor runs by her lofty standards and had uncharacteristically imprecise technique, scraping the edges of the wall multiple times in two lackluster slides, landing her 19th in the standings.
The margin between seizing a medal and missing out on the podium is so fine because of the speed and how the track dictates the times for these athletes. That was on full display, but Germany's finest in Geisenberger and Huefner have set the stage for what should be a sensational final two runs.
However, there is still a chance for Hamlin to overtake the German duo and take home the gold in what would be quite an upset. The final two runs take place on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. ET.