SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Olympic luge champion Tatjana Hufner edged out two other Germans to win the women's singles in the final World Cup meet of the season, a test event for the Sochi Winter Games next year.
World champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany won the men's doubles, beating compatriots Peter Penz and Georg Fischer by 0.134 seconds. Olympic silver medalists Andris Sics and Juris Sics of Latvia were third.
The Saturday runs came under difficult conditions, with air temperature around 10 C (50 F) and light rain. Despite the poor weather and previous complaints about ice quality at the track, called Sanki, athletes expressed strong satisfaction with the ice and track design.
Natalie Geisenberger, the current world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, finished second in the women's race, but had already won the overall World Cup before the competition started. Anke Wischnewski was third.
Wendl and Arlt also came to Sochi knowing they already had the World Cup, but "this is the Olympic track and we had to do our best," Arlt said. Geisenberger had the fastest women's time of the day at 50.894 seconds in the first run, but Hufner's two-run combined time of 1 minute 41.922 seconds was 0.038 faster. Wischnewski placed second in the overall World Cup standings and Hufner was third.
Although bobsledders and skeleton riders had complained about rough ice at the Sanki track earlier in February, Saturday's sliders gave it good reviews. "It is maybe my favorite track," Hufner said after her win. "It has its character."
Luge is still shadowed by the death of Georgia's Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run at Whistler for the 2010 Olympics. The Sanki track addresses some of the safety concerns that arose after Kumaritashvili's death, including three negative slopes that slow sliders' speed slightly.
"I think the track is rather safe. There were no major falls" during training or competition, Hufner said. American Emily Sweeney fell in the first run Saturday after going sideways in a curve. She struggled back onto the luge and ended up crossing the finish line headfirst.
"I've probably had the worst ride today of anybody, and I felt safe," she said. Wischnewski added: "I think the track forgives some mistakes." However, Sweeney noted that the negative slopes on the 16-curve track might be a disadvantage for some.
"As one of the smaller athletes, let's say it doesn't work in my favor," she said. American Julia Clukey praised the track's design. "It's a unique track. It's fun to slide on," she said, noting that several of the curves are a challenge because they start uphill, then drop.
Complaints arose at the bobsled and skeleton World Cup meet at Sanki about poor ice quality, but the women sliders said those failings apparently had been ironed out. "We had heard a lot about that and we were sitting in Calgary dreading coming here," said Canada's Arianne Jones. But "you can tell they put in a lot of work and there are no problems at all."