Emily Sweeney’s Olympic debut ended with a frightening crash Tuesday in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The 24-year-old Sweeney – who was born in Portland and attended school in Falmouth before moving to Suffield, Connecticut – started to lose control on Curve 9 of her fourth and final run of women’s singles luge. She eventually skidded sideways before hitting first her head and then her feet on opposite walls of the steep and icy Olympic Sliding Centre.

Medical personnel clambered onto the track to attend to Sweeney as a hush fell over the crowd and NBC television cameras avoided showing the fallen luger. A stretcher was brought out, but after several tense minutes Sweeney was able to get to her feet. She walked away gingerly to relieved applause.

The diagnosis was that Sweeney had only some bumps and bruises.

“I’m OK,” she said.

Emily Sweeney brakes after her third run during the women’s luge final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday.

Sweeney wound up sliding feet-first up one curve toward the track roof before getting thrown from her sled and eventually tumbling to a stop.


Many in the crowd looked at the monitors, horrifed. The stands were filled with fans cheering raucously, and they immediately went silent waiting for some sort of sign that Sweeney would be all right.

It took several minutes for Sweeney to get to her feet, then several more before she could finally start a slow walk to the finish area — surrounded by team and on-site medical personnel.

“I’ve never been so relieved than when I saw her getting up and walking,” said American teammate Summer Britcher, choking back tears.

Curve 9 has been a problem for sliders throughout the early portion of the Olympics, causing many to skid, lose control and lose some time. Crashes, however, have not come as often as they did in the 2006 and 2010 Games, both of which left athletes openly complaining about track safety.

Later in the final run, Britcher lost control at the start and collided with some walls — but got down the track without crashing or serious injury.

Monday marked the eighth anniversary of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the eve of the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler, British Columbia.


Sweeney entered the final run in 14th place, having moved up one spot following her first two runs.

After a delay of approximately 10 minutes, competition resumed and Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger won the gold medal, as she did in Sochi four years earlier. Teammate Dajana Eitberger earned silver, .367 seconds behind Geisenberger’s four-run combined time of 3 minutes, 5.232 seconds.

Alex Gough won Canada’s first medal in luge, taking bronze. She was .412 seconds behind Geisenberger.

The other two U.S. lugers, Erin Hamlin and Britcher, placed sixth and 19th, respectively. Hamlin was a bronze medalist in 2014.

Only 20 women from the original field of 30 advanced to the final two runs. Sweeney’s official result was DNF, for Did Not Finish.

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