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Date
14 Dec 2017
Tags
Skeleton , PyeongChang 2018 , Olympic News
PyeongChang 2018

Lölling eyes an Olympic first for German skeleton

Germany’s Jacqueline Lölling enjoyed a truly memorable 2017, scooping European and World Championship golds and the World Cup title. A breakthrough star of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck 2012, where she claimed the girls’ skeleton crown, her next objective is to win Olympic gold at PyeongChang 2018 and end Great Britain’s run of success in the event.

Lölling’s stellar 2017 also included a storming run in the mixed team event at the IBSF World Championships in Königsee (GER) in February. With her Germany 1 team lying fourth after the men’s skeleton and two-women bob runs, Lölling posted a new track record of 51.23 to catapult her team into the lead ahead of Russia. She then looked on as Johannes Lochner secured gold with the fastest run in the two-man bob leg.

Skeleton’s youngest world champion

Five days later, watched by IOC President Thomas Bach, 22-year-old Lölling became the youngest ever women’s world champion in her sport. Jumping into a 0.06-second lead over compatriot and defending champion Tina Hermann on the first run, Lölling maintained her position when the second run was cancelled due to heavy snow.

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Staying ahead on the third run, Lölling beat Hermann on the fourth by 0.25 seconds. Sochi 2014 gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain completed the podium, nearly three-quarters of a second behind the young German.

It was left to team-mate Hermann to sum up her performance: “Jacqueline is on incredible form. It was pretty clear that it would be really tough to beat her here.”

A breakout win

Lölling was just 12 when she took up skeleton in 2007. Three years later she appeared in her first international competition: a European Cup meet on the Olympic track in Cesana Pariol (ITA). She won both races.

Still only 15 when she claimed her first national title in December 2011, Lölling earned a place on Germany’s team at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012. The competition was reduced to a single run because of bad weather, but the German teen’s superiority shone through, as she won gold by nearly a second from Austria’s Carina Mair and Canada’s Carli Brockway.

A bronze medallist at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Igls (AUT), Lölling traded up to gold in 2014 in Winterberg (GER) and retained the title the following year in Altenberg (GER). That second world junior crown earned her a place at the 2015 IBSF World Championships in Winterberg, where, having just turned 20, she won silver behind Yarnold.

Rising to the top

The German prodigy made her World Cup debut in the 2015/16 season, gaining podium finishes in her first three races: a third place in Altenberg and second places in Winterberg and Königsee. Lölling finished fourth at the European Championships in St Moritz (SUI) and was runner-up to Hermann in the national championships. She then scored two more podium finishes to take second place behind her compatriot in the overall standings.

Her senior career took off to a flying start on 6 January 2017, when she won the World Cup event in Altenberg. A week later, Lölling claimed the European title by 0.16 seconds from Austria’s Janine Flock in Winterberg, followed by her world championship double.

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Her winning streak continued with a third victory in the World Cup final at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, which doubled up as the PyeongChang 2018 skeleton test event. Lölling was fastest in both runs, setting an inaugural track record of 52.75 on her second run. This ranked her first in the overall World Cup standings with a total of 1,591 points.

Lölling now has her sights set on Olympic gold in PyeongChang. Judging by the start of her 2017/18 IBSF World Cup season, that goal is well within her grasp. Third on the opening weekend in Lake Placid (USA), she followed up with wins in Whistler (CAN) in late November and Winterberg in early December to place her at the top of the standings.

Though Germany is the world’s pre-eminent force in the luge and bobsleigh, it has never won an Olympic skeleton title and has just two medals to its name: a silver for Kerstin Szymkowiak and a bronze for Anja Huber behind Great Britain’s Amy Williams at Vancouver 2010. In Lölling, they have an athlete who is fully capable of ending her country’s title drought at PyeongChang 2018.

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