East Germany had emerged as the dominant force in the luge and bobsleigh at the Sapporo Games in 1972 – and the peak of that domination arguably came four years later at Innsbruck, where the country’s male and female teams enjoyed a clean sweep of all the gold medals in both sports. In one 24-hour spell GDR athletes claimed 10 medals in 24 hours. Indeed, the GDR won all but three of the medals available.
Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn rubber-stamped the GDR’s dominance of the sport at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid by becoming the first pair ever to successfully defend an Olympic luge title.
In the single-seater competition Rinn missed out on a medal after a spill on the 12th bend of the treacherous track at Mount van Hoevenberg, the only luge run in North America at the time.
But in the two-seater contest he and Hahn got off to a successful start, setting a track record in the first heat on the 740m course with a sizzling run of 39.303.
Their second run was distinctly more hair-raising, peppered by near accidents and much slower. But both held on to record a time of 40.028, giving them an overall time of 1:19.31 – enough to ensure they held on to their title.
Peter Gschnitzer and Karl Brunner of Italy placed second to take the silver medal and Georg Gluckinger and Karl Schrott of Austria were awarded the bronze. Rinn and Hahn were a successful partnership for East Germany. Along with their two Olympic gold medals – and the bronze Rinn picked up in the singles at Innsbruck in 1976 – they notched up multiple World and European titles throughout the 1970s.
In the FIL World Championships Rinn won two men’s doubles gold medals and was crowned singles champion once, notching up an additional three silver medals and a bronze. Between 1973 and 1980, he also took seven European Championship gold medals in the singles and doubles competitions, with a further five silver medals and one bronze.
Meanwhile, Hahn won gold in the doubles at the World Championships twice between 1973 and 1978, with two silver medals and a bronze. He won four gold medals at the European Championships and three runners-up medals, all for doubles races. Every doubles medal they won was achieved racing with each other.
Rinn now works as a luge judge for the International Luge Federation (FIL) and was inducted into the FIL Hall of Fame in 2005. Hahn later made his living as a coach at the East German sports hub at Oberhof. In 2006 he took over the Russian national team, before being appointed German national coach in 2009.