In 2012, Britcher won a gold medal in the team relay at the Youth Olympics. In November, she scored her highest finish to date on the Senior World Cup circuit, placing eighth in Igls, Austria.

There have been mishaps en route — crashes and flips at derring-do speeds that have left her with bruises and ice burns.

"I've crashed countless times," she said. "On a run, you're just dialed in and don't notice how fast you're going unless you make a mistake and hit an ice-covered concrete wall. It hurts, but I've been lucky so far."

Britcher is the third youngest member of the 10-person U.S. team, which ranges in age from 18-36.

"Summer has come a long way in a short time," said Mark Grimmette, USA Luge Sport Program Director, adding that the "positive energy" she brings the team can't be overstated.

What Britcher still lacks, he said, is an explosive start:

"Finishing in the top 10 [in Sochi] would be great for her; finishing in the top 15 would be a solid result."

Britcher's goal?

"The top 10 is do-able, but it won't be easy," she said. "The experience alone will make me a lot more competitive in four years."

Her daughter had spunk from the start, Carrie Britcher said.

While skiing at age 4, "Summer got real aggravated when someone passed her going down the hill because they were heavier," her mother said. "She'd say, 'That's not fair! You're bigger than me!'"

At 5, Britcher and her two older brothers built snow ramps at the base of the hill in their back yard and careened over them in inner tubes, somersaulting through the air in glee.

Three years ago, when her mother entered a cherry seed-spitting contest at a local orchard, Summer Britcher took part too.

"I was determined to beat my mom," she said, "so we bought bags of cherries and practiced spitting, and I wound up winning the whole thing [with a distance of 30 feet]. The local newspaper ran a real embarrassing picture of me, in mid-cherry pit spit."

Question her name — an athlete named Summer competing in the Winter Games — and Britcher rolls her eyes for, perhaps, the umpteenth time. Let her mother explain.

"She was born in March after a cold, snowy winter," Carrie Britcher said. "She came on the first day of spring, so we named her Summer. She was an upbeat child with a sunny personality, so the name kind of fit."

For the record, Summer Britcher hates the cold.

"It's a slowly developed hate over the past eight years, stemming from having gone to tons of cold places and wearing a Spandex suit in negative 20-degree temperatures," she said. "All I have to keep me warm is my name."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com


Summer Britcher

Born: March 21, 1994 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center

Lives: Glen Rock, Pa.

Family: Father Bill, captain in Baltimore City Fire Department. Mother Carrie. Youngest of four children.

Olympic event: Women's luge (singles)

Competition: Begins Monday and concludes Tuesday