Loch gunning for golden luge hat-trick at PyeongChang 2018
An Olympic men’s singles luge champion at the age of 20 in Vancouver in 2010, Felix Loch retained his title four years later in Sochi, where he also won gold in the new mixed team event. Having remained at the top of his sport since then, the German will be the man to beat when he goes for a third straight singles title at PyeongChang 2018.
Germany's Felix Loch confirmed his status as the pre-eminent luger of his day at Sochi 2014, where he held on to the Olympic men's singles title he had won in Vancouver four years earlier.
Dominant across all four runs, Loch saw off the challenge of forty-somethings Albert Demchenko of Russia and Armin Zöggeler of Italy, taking the gold by 0.476 seconds from the Russian, with the Italian completing the podium.
"It really was difficult in Russia, against Albert and Armin," explained Loch afterwards. "I feel very relieved right now."
Loch then won the third Olympic gold of his career in the all-new mixed team competition, linking up with women's singles champion Natalie Geisenberger and men's doubles winners Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt to complete a German clean sweep of the luge medals in Sochi.
Luge's youngest champion
Born within a stone's throw of an ice track, Loch has luge in his blood. His father Norbert represented the German Democratic Republic in the sport at the Olympic Winter Games Sarajevo 1984 before becoming a coach.
In his youth, the naturally gifted Loch was a dominant force on both the domestic and international scene, winning the junior singles and doubles world titles in 2006. Two years later, at the age of 18, he became the youngest ever luger to win the senior singles world title in Oberhof (GER). Then, in February 2009, he set a new luge speed world record of 153.9 km/h. A year later, still only 20, Loch went fastest in all four runs at Vancouver 2010 to become his sport's youngest Olympic gold medallist.
Appliance of science
Giving his view on Loch, six-time Olympic medallist Zöggeler said: "He is a true natural talent. His physique is almost ideal for luge, and thanks to his work rate he has become the star of the sport in a very short space of time."
Loch's powers of concentration on the ice are much admired. He has always taken a scientific approach to a sport in which, in addition to all his Olympic success, he has won five world singles titles as well as five consecutive FIL World Cup crowns between 2012 and 2016.
A further mark of Loch's unrivalled ability is the fact that he is unbeaten on tracks such as Altenberg (GER) – where he has won eight competitions in a row, including the 2012 world title – and Oberhof, where he won for a seventh straight time in 2017.
"To make serious progress in luge you need to understand physics," said the German, who has his sights set on another golden double at PyeongChang 2018.
"I have spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel trying to find the position that offers the least air resistance. You also need to adjust your style to the impact on your body of forces from all different directions. And most of all you need to perform hundreds of descents to get a real feel for your luge and control over it."
Attention to detail
For the first time since the start of the decade, Loch saw his supremacy challenged in the 2016/17 season, when Russia's two-time junior world champion Roman Repilov deprived him of a sixth successive overall World Cup title.
"I'd liked to have kept the run going, but Roman has been so strong this season," said the German luger afterwards. "He deserves the overall crown."
Loch nevertheless managed wins at Winterberg (GER) and Oberhof to take his tally of career victories to 34, including 14 in a row between 2012 and 2013.
"The most important thing is to expand your knowledge of the track," says Loch, who has already put the Alpensia Sliding Centre track, which will be used in PyeongChang, to the test. "On every corner, you need to understand how to steer your luge at the start of it, in the middle and on exiting too. It's very important and we need these test runs to find the right line."
Loch's compatriot Georg Hackl is the only man to have won three consecutive Olympic luge singles titles – at Albertville 1992, Lillehammer 1994 and Nagano 1998. The finest luger of his generation, Loch has what it takes to follow the great Hackl into the history books at PyeongChang 2018.