KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The race is for second.
That's how good Germany's Natalie Geisenberger was in the opening two runs of the Olympic women's luge competition, which ends Tuesday night with the final two trips down the track at the Sanki Sliding Center.
She was perfect. And no one else had a chance.
Geisenberger leads by the enormous-for-luge margin of more than three-quarters of a second going into the final two runs, after finishing her first two trips in 1 minute, 39.814 seconds. Tatjana Huefner, Geisenberger's countrywoman and the 2010 Olympic champion, is 0.766 seconds back. And in third is Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., the 2009 world champion who is now in position to give the U.S. its first singles luge medal in Olympic history.
Gold will be Geisenberger's, barring some unfortunate occurrence.
History says it's over.
In each of the last three Olympics, and in eight of the previous 13 that included luge on the program, the 1-2-3 order at the midway point wound up being the 1-2-3 order when the competition was complete.
That's a golden sign for Geisenberger, and a great sign for Hamlin.
She's acutely aware of how the U.S. has been fourth in singles races at the Olympics three times, often much worse, never any better.
Come Tuesday night, she can change that.
"Oh my God," Hamlin's teammate, Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., said, throwing back her head and looking at the Russian sky. "After the first run, I didn't realize she was in second and I saw the results and I was like, 'She didn't tell me that,' and I was so excited. If she can get a medal it would be amazing."
Here's five things to watch Tuesday night when the competition concludes:
TOUGH TO RALLY: In 12 of the 13 previous Olympic women's luge competitions, the eventual champion has either been first (10 times) or second (twice) at the midway point of the competition. The only time the gold medalist emerged from in the pack to win was 1976, when Margit Schumann was fifth after two runs — though she was less than a tenth of a second off the lead.