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Future luge stars prove their worth

Thomas Lovelock YIS/IOC

There was much for luge fans to admire at Lillehammer’s Olympic Sliding Centre, not least a Canadian who dances with sleds, an ultra-fast Latvian who is all power down the ice and a mixed German team packed with strength in depth.

Brooke Apshkrum © Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC

Clocking a top speed of 115.2km per hour on her second run, Canada’s Brooke Apshkrum sprung a surprise in the women’s singles, beating Germany’s world junior champion Jessica Tiebel and Austria’s Madeleine Egle to the gold to land her country’s maiden Olympic luge medal.

Afterwards, the bubbly 16-year-old Calgary racer had this to say about her sport: “It’s not the speed I like the most but the feeling going down. It’s like dancing with your sled. It’s neat.

“You feel every movement and feel the pressure with you. You don’t notice you are going fast. It seems quite slow. I think about 10 things during one corner, so it is timeless.”

Brooke Apshkrum © Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC

Kristers on the charge

While the powerfully built Latvian Kristers Aparjods looks anything but a twinkle-toed dancer, he is certainly one of the best junior lugers in the world. Absolutely dominant in the training runs, Kristers, who turned 18 three days after Lillehammer 2016 came to a close, recorded an average speed of 119.6 km/h in taking the lead in the first run of the final, held in bright sunlight and in front of a large crowd that contained IOC President Thomas Bach.

One of three men to dip below 48 seconds on that opening run, the Latvian was followed on the leaderboard by Russia’s Evgenii Petrov and Germany’s Paul-Lukas Heider.

Reid Watts © Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC

Lying in fifth place after his first descent, Canada’s Reid Watts then jumped into medal contention with a scintillating second run, while Evgenii made a costly mistake at the end of his run to relinquish all hopes of a medal.

Paul-Lukas then dipped under 48 seconds again to take the lead from Reid, though his reign at the top was short-lived, with Kristers pulling out the fastest time of the entire meet to finish 0.646 seconds clear of the field.

“It’s just a fantastic feeling. I can’t describe it,” said the ecstatic Latvian afterwards. “It’s nice everywhere. It’snice weather, and when you win a gold medal it’s just fantastic. There are all these fans, and my friends are here. It’s really good.”

Relay joy for Germany

Luge powerhouses Germany had to be content with silver in the men’s doubles after Italians Felix Schwarz and Lukas Gufler outpaced Hannes Orlamuender and Paul Gubitz by nearly a second, with Russian pair Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov taking the bronze.

Paul-Lukas Heider © Pietro Montanarella for YIS/IOC

The Germans enjoyed better luck in the final luge competition, the mixed relay, where Jessica Tiebel, Hannes Orlamünder and Paul-Lukas Heider shaded the Russian trio by 0.188 seconds, with Italy taking the bronze.

Overcome by the emotion of seeing her son win gold, Paul-Lukas’ mother Sybille, a YOG volunteer, broke down in tears, a reaction that summed up the whole atmosphere of the luge competition in Lillehammer.

“This isn’t just anything,” she said. “We put our heart and soul into luge and we love the sport. To do it all in one day like this is great.”

Team Germany © Pietro Montanarella for YIS/IOC

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