Nothing elevates the tension in an Olympic event quite like a fierce rivalry, and in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City the two greatest lugers the sport had ever seen collided head on. The event had been the proud domain of German George Hackl.
Affectionately known as the Flying Sausage, Hackl had dominated the event winning gold in Albertville 1992
, Lillehammer 1994
and in Nagano in 1998
after opening his Olympic account with a silver in Calgary 1988
However, Hackl’s Olympic dominance was tough on Italian Armin Zoeggeler, who had been matching the mighty German through many of their World Cup campaigns during the period. In his Nagano win, Hackl cantered to victory clocking the four fastest runs, but at the Utah Olympic Park it was a much tighter affair. On the opening day under glorious sunshine at Park City, the two leading lugers shared the spoils with the fastest times in the opening two runs.
The third run proved crucial. Zoeggeler opened up a 0.3 second lead which in luge terms is a huge margin, and only a major mistake could have cost him his maiden gold. After completing his run, Hackl anxiously watched the TV monitors from the rostrum reserved for the fastest competitor so far.
Zoeggeler gathered his thoughts at the top of the run and then calmly propelled himself down the course, his chrome helmet glistening in the Utah sunshine. Careering down the course at speeds in excess of 140 km/h, Zoeggeler’s triumph was never in any doubt. He thundered past the finishing line over three tenths of a second ahead of Hackl, and the German was the first to applaud the feat.
Hackl and third-placed Austrian Markus Prock held Zoeggeler aloft on their shoulders after the medal ceremony, and the Italian would go on to emulate the German legend by claiming gold in Turin and bronze in Vancouver to record five medals in consecutive Games.