Canada’s Alex Gough within reach of podium halfway through women’s luge event

Alex Gough of Canada competes in her first run during the women's luge competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Calgary’s Alex Gough finds herself in a good position at the midway point of the women’s luge at the Pyeongchang Games.

Gough is third after the first two runs with a combined time of one minute 32.645 seconds, with two more runs left on Tuesday. That leaves the Canadian just 0.191 seconds behind leader Natalie Geisenberger of Germany.

German Dajana Eitberger is second with a time of 1:32.574.

“The track is in great condition and I had pretty good runs,” Gough said. “The ice is a little harder for sure but I like it when the ice is hard, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens (Tuesday).

Kimberley McRae, also of Calgary, has more work to do. She’s sixth overall with a combined time of 1:32.788.

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“The second run was a little rough on every corner and I definitely lost some time there,” she said. “Sometimes you just get out of rhythm and it’s hard to get back on it, especially if you’re off from the top.

“Every time I come out of (curve) nine I’m just holding my breath because I don’t want to hit that wall. You definitely just have to relax and let the sled go.”

Geisenberger is in prime position to win a second straight Olympic title. But after seeing fellow German star Felix Loch skid midway through the final run of the men’s race and lose his shot at a third consecutive gold medal, she’s fully aware nothing is assured.

“We saw what could happen if you make a little mistake,” Geisenberger said. “You lose big, big, big time.”

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Germany’s Tatjana Huefner and American Erin Hamlin are also within a quarter-second of Geisenberger.

“It’s a great race,” said Hamlin, the bronze medallist at the Sochi Olympics four years ago who is retiring after these Games. “Anything can happen.”

Curve 9 was Loch’s undoing Sunday night, and it snagged a few of the women’s contenders as well – perhaps most notably Americans Emily Sweeney and Summer Britcher.

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Sweeney had a bad wreck in training on Sunday and was still mindful of it Monday, finishing the first two runs in 15th place. Britcher hit the wall hard in her first run, then rebounded to set a track record in the second – and showed plenty of emotion afterward.

“That was pretty satisfying,” Britcher said. “I don’t think I would have been so happy if I’d had a good first run. But it is hard to come back from a bad run, especially at an Olympics.”

Alex Gough of Canada prepares for the start of her second run during the women’s luge competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. AP Photo/Andy Wong

It’s the sixth consecutive Olympic women’s race where a German has held the lead at the midway point. Geisenberger is bidding to be the third woman to win consecutive Olympic golds, joining Steffi Martin Walter (1984, 1988) and Sylke Otto (2002, 2006).

She was in this spot four years ago, trying to sleep with the Olympic lead. It wasn’t easy that night in Sochi. This time, now with that women’s gold and a relay gold secured from 2014, she’s thinking she could be more relaxed.

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“In Sochi, my dream was to win an Olympic gold medal,” Geisenberger said. “That was my dream since I was a little child.

“Now I have the gold medal. I have two of them. If there will be another medal, good. If not, it’s not the worst case. It’s just sport.”

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