PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It was a very sad coincidence.
Just as I used to be asking Erin Hamlin, the U.S. flag-bearer at these Winter Games and 4-time Olympic luger, about how she was dealing with the sliding monitor’s notoriously difficult Turn 9, Austrian luger Birgit Platzer went pinballing in that very turn. Platzer bounced off two partitions, caught air and got here fully off her sled, skidding alongside the ice on her again for a ways.
Everyone on the Alpensia Sliding Centre sucked in air directly, together with Hamlin, who stopped the interview and rotated to face the tv to test on Platzer’s situation.
“Oh no,” Hamlin mentioned.
In September in Park City, Utah, Hamlin was the primary to say the difficulties of Turn 9 right here, however it shortly grew to become a theme. The turn itself is a extremely technical, unorthodox sector of the Alpensia monitor the place a turn emerges not right into a straightaway or one other turn, as is typical, however right into a serpentine straight, often known as a chicane.
The Alpensia’s chicane is not the one one on this planet. The Whistler monitor in British Columbia options one, as does the monitor in Lake Placid, New York, the place many U.S. sliders prepare. What’s explicit about the Alpensia chicane is that it really follows in the identical course because the turn, not towards it, which creates a sideways strain on the sled.
The end result, in keeping with U.S. luger Tucker West, is that sliders come out of the curve “pointing straight at a wall.”
Hamlin mentioned in September that the variety of instances she had gotten that turn excellent “were few and far in between.” And after her second official run Monday night time (she finally completed the occasion in sixth place), she turned again from watching Platzer’s crash and confessed she nonetheless hadn’t completely figured it out.
“It’s still very difficult, as you just witnessed. It’s given me trouble all week,” Hamlin mentioned, including that she was taking a reasonably improvisational method to the curve. “I just want to get out of it, so however that happens I’m great with.”
American luger Taylor Morris, who positioned 18th within the males’s singles competitors, mentioned the U.S. staff had developed two primary approaches to the curve throughout its coaching runs within the days earlier than the competitors.
“There’s the idea that when you come off of 8 and into 9, you can be set up on the right-hand side and hit the corner pretty early, and that kind of knocks you flat through the middle,” Morris mentioned in describing the primary possibility. The second is riskier: “You set up on the left and get this massive height and kind of shoot through that gap,” he mentioned. “Instead of steering around it, you make it as straight of a line as possible.”
In a sport during which races are determined by hundredths of a second, attempting the second method is sort of irresistible.
“If you have some faith in yourself and a little trust in your equipment, you can make that second line work,” Morris mentioned, including that the Alpensia chicane barely mimics that of the Lake Placid monitor.
Thus far at these video games, Turn 9 has proved decisive. American luger Chris Mazdzer, the silver medalist in males’s singles occasion, mentioned after his ultimate run that his No. 1 purpose had been to nail Turn 9 each time he went down the monitor.
“I knew if I was off a little bit, I’d come out completely sideways and out of control,” Mazdzer mentioned.
German luging legend Felix Loch was denied his likelihood at a file-tying three-peat of gold in males’s singles as a result of he acquired the ninth turn mistaken on his ultimate run.
“I did a mistake out of Corner 9, and that is one part of the track you are not allowed to do a mistake,” Loch defined.
The climate has performed a task in making the Turn 9 tough, as nicely. Cold temperatures, worsened by excessive winds, have made the ice particularly arduous — making driving the sled out of the turn extra attempting due to elevated speeds. Those who navigate the turn have been setting and resetting monitor data at Alpensia; those that have not both lose essential time or to lose their sleds — like Emily Sweeney of the U.S., who suffered a terrifying wreck popping out of the ninth curve on her ultimate run yesterday.
American luger Summer Britcher, who set the monitor file in girls’s singles with a time of 46.132 seconds on her second run (she finally completed 19th) tried to explain the impact Turn 9 is having on the sliders.
“A lot of people are having trouble there because we’ve had so much trouble in the past. You get this negative feeling in your head,” Britcher defined. “You almost get this PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] of the curve.”
And with doubles occasion and the staff relay remaining in luge, there’s absolutely extra drama to return.