Germany’s double Olympic gold medallist tells us what it’s like to train and compete in this fast and furious winter sport.
When it comes to the luge, there are few more decorated athletes than Natalie Geisenberger. She has medalled in seven consecutive world championships, has won the last five women’s overall World Cup titles, and claimed individual and team gold at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. Here, the 29-year-old from Munich gives an insight into the fearless life of a luger.
The need for speed
“Luge is a very fast and dynamic sport, combining high speed with the accuracy you need to stay on a fast line – not steering too much, but just as much as you need for the nearly perfect line. We try to be very explosive at the start when we’re sitting on our sleds. We have spikes on our gloves, so we can use them to accelerate as much as possible, then we lie on our backs and slide down an artificial ice track at speeds of up to 140 km/h.”
What it takes to make it
“To be successful, you firstly can’t have any anxiety about the speed you’re travelling at. We just wear special shoes, a very tiny suit and our only protection is the helmet. You also need to be physically strong, especially in the upper body, and you must have good reactions. It helps to have a good base of technical knowledge as well, to help you build a fast sled.”
The mental side
“Luge is very mentally exhausting, because often one hundredth of a second is critical. In combination with the high speed and the high concentration, I would say that to be successful in luge, 50 per cent of the time it is decided in your head. Away from the sport, my family, friends and my dog are a big mental help for me. It’s important to find a good balance between relaxing and competing.”
Training with the seasons
“In the summer, our training is fortunately very varied. For the most part we are working on weightlifting for strength, speed training and coordination. In the winter, however, it is all luge, luge, luge – and also some weightlifting for power conservation.”
Striving for more
“I’ve achieved everything you can in luge. I’m Olympic and world champion and I have won the overall World Cup [five times in succession]. There’s nothing more to reach for, but I know the feeling of winning the gold medal; the feeling of giving everything in training and in races; and the feeling of standing there at the end, receiving the medal and hearing the German anthem. It is an indescribable feeling and I just want that again and again.”