In Olympic luge, it's Germany, and everyone else

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 5, 2014 at 6:42 am •  Published: February 5, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Asked a pair of simple questions about German luge dominance this week, U.S. Olympic slider Chris Mazdzer didn't hesitate with his answers.

So, how can Felix Loch be beaten at the Olympics?

"He crashes," Mazdzer said.

And is there a way for Natalie Geisenberger to lose?

"Same exact way," Mazdzer said. "Or not showing up."

There you have it. If the Germans — led by Loch and Geisenberger, who were absolutely dominant on the way to World Cup overall titles this season — somehow do not win luge gold at the Sochi Games, the most probable causes would likely be either a wreck or having the team somehow forget the Olympics are happening.

Sounds silly, but it really isn't. There have been 117 medals awarded in Olympic luge to date: Germans have 70 of them, while the rest of the world has 47. A country roughly half the size of Texas is beyond dominant in sliding, winning more than half the medals awarded on this season's World Cup circuit and almost always shining brightest on the Olympic stage.

Luge has been part of 13 previous Olympics. Germans have led the medal count 12 times. And they almost certainly will again in Sochi.

"Of course it gets frustrating," said Canada's Alex Gough, who was second to Geisenberger in this season's women's World Cup points standings — but hasn't beaten the German star in any of the last 23 international races in which they've both competed. "It's tough to work as hard as you do and to have the Germans be as good as they are, but that's part of our sport and it's been that way since as long as I can remember, as long as I've been in the sport."

Gough is 26. It's been that way since long before she was alive.

For the longest time, Germans got their biggest challenges from, well, Germans. East Germany vs. West Germany was one of the best rivalries in the sport, and when the nations unified, the divide between being the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the world got considerably wider. Austria, Italy, Russia and the U.S. have had some challengers to the German luge thrones from time to time, but when talking about sustained excellence, only Deutschland need apply.

"I don't think they feel that they must win," said Georg Hackl, a German luge legend who now coaches the world's best team. "They feel that they can win, if they do right. They are confident because these athletes that you see, they are physically good, they are good at their task and their skills in luge, and they perform very technically. These athletes are the result of a very big process of ... ha, it's hard to say in English ... auslese."