By Ian Ransom
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Germany’s “Bayern Express”, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, thundered down the ice track to claim a second successive Olympic gold in the doubles luge on Wednesday, underlining their class on the sliding sport’s biggest stage.
Four years after denying Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger a hat-trick of titles in Sochi, Wendl and Arlt put in two flawless runs at Pyeongchang’s Olympic Sliding Centre to edge out silver-winning Austrian duo Peter Penz and Georg Fischler.
The favoured German pair of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, who had won virtually every major trophy over the past two seasons, had to be content with bronze.
Germany have now won two out of three of the luge titles at the Pyeongchang Games, following Natalie Geisenberger’s second successive triumph in the women’s singles on Tuesday.
“We were a lot more relaxed because we already knew we had the gold medal from Sochi on our shelf,” 30-year-old police officer Arlt told reporters after winning with a combined time of one minute 31.697 seconds, less than a tenth of a second quicker than the Austrians.
“We were very relaxed but we’re also very happy, it’s indescribable.”
For Wendl, it was the result of thousands of hours of “training, blood and sweat”.
“And now we’re Olympic champions again … It’s quite scary when you come into your first run but we were quite confident and everything worked out in the end,” he said.
Wendl and Arlt had been decidedly second best to Eggert and Benecken throughout the season but stunned the world champions with a sizzling track record of 45.820 seconds in their opening run.
The Austrian duo of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler also threw down the gauntlet with a blazing first effort to leave Eggert and Benecken third at the interval.
That was how the podium positions remained as Wendl and Arlt summoned all their Olympic experience to continue Germany’s dominance of the event.
German athletes have now won 11 out of 15 of the doubles golds in luge dating back to the 1964 Innsbruck Games.
Penz and Georg Fischler continued Austria’s fine tournament, grabbing the nation’s second luge medal of the Games after David Gleirscher’s shock gold in the men’s singles on Sunday.
Benecken won his bronze on his 28th birthday but hoped for better in four years at Beijing.
“Maybe we started as the favorite but often the favorites don’t come to the finish with the medal or with the good run,” he said ruefully.
A number of pairs struggled with the tricky ice track, including the Ukraine team of Olesandr Obolonchyk and Roman Zakharkiv, who careered down the course like a pin-ball on their first run, leaving their coach yanking at his long beard in frustration.
Despite allowing mixed gender teams since 1994, the doubles event remains male-dominated due to height, weight and strength compatibility issues between athletes of the opposite sex.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom, Editing by Ed Osmond)