Luge World Championships in Oberhof: The lead over the competition is getting smaller

At the beginning of this season it looked as if German luge was going into a deep crisis. At the first World Cup in Innsbruck, the Austrian athletes dominated on their home track, followed by the German sleds. Apparently that had a lot to do with Georg Hackl. The three-time Olympic champion, who developed the German sleds as a trainer in recent years, switched to the Austrian association before the season.

National coach Norbert Loch was surprised at how many mistakes his athletes made at the beginning of December, but had no fundamental doubts that the form curve would improve again and that the German sleds would pick up speed towards the high point of the season. This Friday, the first races will start at the home World Championships in Oberhof. The women’s doubles competition is part of the program for the first time.

National coach Norbert Loch is worried about the future.
© dpa/Matthias Rietschel

“Tobogganing is a mixture of the right set-up, the material and the feeling of the athletes,” says Loch, “and we are well positioned in all these areas.” Apart from the slip-ups at the start of the season, the series winners of the past few years have impressed with numerous top places. At the last races in Sigulda, which also served as the European Championships, Anna Berreiter, Max Langenhan and the men’s doubles Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt triumphed in their respective disciplines.

The dominance of earlier years is gone

However, it seems that the dominance of previous years has disappeared. “Five to eight years ago we beat the competition in all disciplines,” says Loch. Not infrequently, the German tobogganists took several places on the podium. But countries like Austria and Italy have caught up and are putting pressure on the German team, which also has to do without Natalie Geisenberger this season. A few days ago she became a mother for the second time.

The national coach takes the change of long-time companion Georg Hackl in a sporty way. “He’s gone, done, over. I don’t see any disadvantage there.” The German team has never lacked capable technicians and coaches anyway.

He’s gone, done, over. I see no disadvantage there.

National coach Norbert Loch on Georg Hackl’s change of federation.

Rather, it is problematic that numerous nations attract German toboggan specialists, which means that a great deal of know-how is also exported. Which for Loch also has a lot to do with the fact that coaches are not given the appreciation that this demanding job deserves. “You go tobogganing all the time between October and March and hardly ever see your family,” says Loch. “In addition to a corresponding passion, you also need appropriate payment for this.”

The 60-year-old is by no means just referring to the coaches who work with the national team at the highest level. “It’s really about motivating children to play sports,” says Loch. “Because the offspring breaks away from us at some point.”

The railway at Königssee is still a construction site

This is also one of the reasons why the entire industry sorely misses the artificial ice rink on Königssee, which was destroyed in a storm in 2021. It won’t be until 2025 at the earliest that sleds will be able to zoom down the ice channel again. “We have to be patient because the political mills are slowly turning,” says Loch, “but this construction site hurts us a lot.”

The sledding infrastructure is unique. With the lifts at Königssee, in Winterberg, in Altenberg and in Oberhof there are four of these facilities in Germany – with different characteristics. “We try to compensate for this as best we can, both with the children and with the top people.”

The coming days will show to what extent the German team still sets the tone in this sport, which has been so successful at the Olympics.

Source: Tagesspiegel

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