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The winner of singles and mixed-team gold at Sochi 2014, German luger Natalie Geisenberger has swept all before her in recent seasons and is gunning for more titles at PyeongChang 2018.
A double gold medallist at Sochi 2014, Natalie Geisenberger has been in a class of her own in the luge since 2013, when she won the first of five straight FIL World Cup titles. In addition, she also won gold in the singles and mixed team – with Felix Loch and the double Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt – at three consecutive world championships: Whistler (CAN) in 2013, Sigulda (LAT) in 2015 and Königsee (GER) in 2016.
An Olympic bronze medallist in the singles at Vancouver 2010, Geisenberger was in majestic form when she returned to the Winter Games in Sochi four years later. The flying German went fastest in all four legs of the singles competition to win by a massive 1.139 seconds from her compatriot Tajana Hüfner, the defending champion.
“I still need time to realise completely what I've done,” said Geisenberger at the time. “In the fourth run, when I was in the lower part of the course, I understood that I had won the Olympic title and almost started to shout in joy before crossing the finishing line.
“I'm currently in my best form ever. I adjusted my style for this track, though it wasn't easy to do as after curve five to six it's pretty tricky. I'm amazed. The chance to win an Olympic title may not happen again and I'm really happy that I took this occasion to win.”
Two days later, Geisenberger was Germany’s lead-out luger in the mixed-team relay, going fastest among the women lugers to give her team-mates (Loch, Wendl and Arlt once more) an advantage they would build on to secure an impressive winning margin of 1.030 over Russia in second place.
Born in Munich on 5 February 1988, Geisenberger grew up some 50 kilometres away in the Bavarian mountain town of Miesbach, which boasts a summer luge track.
A member of the local luge club from the tender age of 10, she went on to become an outstanding young luger, winning 14 Junior World Cup events, three overall Junior World Cup titles and six Junior World Championship crowns between 2004 and 2007: three in the singles and three in the team event.
On moving up to the senior tour, she became European singles champion in 2008 in Cesana Pariol (ITA), where she also won an U-23 world title three years later.
Geisenberger’s first win on the World Cup circuit came in the 2008/09 season, when she finished second in the standings behind Hüfner, a situation that would repeat itself in the next three seasons.
After finally succeeding Hüfner as World Cup champion in 2013, Geisenberger began to dominate the circuit. Not content with her Sochi 2014 exploits, she won seven out of nine World Cup races that season, eight the following campaign, three in 2015/16 (in addition to a string of second and third places), and four more in 2016/17, when she celebrated her 29th birthday with singles and mixed-team victories in Oberhof.
She clinched her fifth consecutive World Cup crown at the PyeongChang 2018 test event held at the Alpensia Sliding Centre in February 2017. Geisenberger finished second, 0.46 seconds behind Russia’s Tatyana Ivanova over two runs, to maintain her supremacy over Tatjana Huefner and Ivanova in the competition.
The world’s top-ranked women’s luger and a cornerstone of Germany’s mixed relay team, Geisenberger is an aspiring officer in the national police force and a keen photographer. Posting a snap from that February 2017 visit to the Alpensia Sliding Centre on her Facebook page, she wrote: “A year to go before PyeongChang 2018”.
The all-conquering German luger will hope to retain her two Olympic titles in the Republic of Korea. Given the way she has been performing since her Sochi double, that task looks to be well within her reach.