Felix Loch, the German speed machine
Germany’s Felix Loch became the youngest Olympic luge champion in history when he scooped gold at Vancouver 2010 at the tender age of 20. In the following four years he has remained at the top of his sport and heads to Sochi eying double gold and a place in history.
At just 24, Felix Loch has already broken a number of records. In January 2008 in Oberhof (GER), he became the youngest world champion at the age of 18. In February the following year, he broke the luge world speed record, reaching a velocity of 153.9 km/h. And then at Vancouver 2010 the 20-year-old clocked the best time in each of the four rounds to take gold, thus becoming the youngest Olympic luge champion since the sport’s debut in 1964. That was enough to earn rave reviews from Italy’s two-time Olympic champion Armin Zöggeler, the man Loch deposed in 2010, the young German “He’s got a special talent. You’re going to hear a lot about him in the next few years!”
Zöggeler, who will again be one of Loch’s main rivals in Sochi, wasn’t mistaken. The German followed up his Olympic triumph with an extraordinary “double double” as won the overall World Cup rankings and won the World Championships in 2012 and 2013, amassing an impressive 14 victories during that two-year period.
The complete luger
So what is that makes Loch such a fine exponent of his sport? First, there is the scientific rigour with which he approaches the luge. As part of his training regime, for example, he does regular sessions in the wind tunnel at a leading German automobile manufacturer. “In luge, you need a great understanding of physics to be able to identify and properly assess important factors during each run. For example, the influence of the G-forces – the load acting on my body due to the velocity and the strong change in direction. You also need a certain feeling for your sled, which fits you perfectly after months of preparation.”
Then there is his physique. Loch’s stands an imposing 1.91m and during the winter gets his weight up to 98kg; these are vital statistics which serve him well on the track. “It’s definitely an advantage,” he admits. “Put simply, the heavier you are, the faster you are at the finish. It’s good if you have long arms, so you have better leverage while pulling at the start block. You have to be very fast at the start, because then you are in a good position to lead until the finish.”
And finally, there is his mental discipline. “Because one run only takes about a minute, I must have high levels of concentration,” he explains. “Of course, this is not always easy. The external pressure is sometimes very high, plus I add pressure on myself as well. Like any athlete, I want to give my best to win, so the demands are very high. You have to find a way to block all these influences out, both before and during the race. Directly before the race I go into a “mental tunnel” – I will just focus on myself and blank everything else out.”
Loch is already ahead of schedule in his bid to become one of the greatest lugers of all time. In Sochi he looks set to move one step nearer, as he attempts to equal Zöggeler’s gold medal tally and close in on the Olympic record set by his compatriot Georg Hackl, who won the men’s title in 1992, 1994 and 1998.