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Latvia’s Kristers Aparjods justified his status as the man to beat in the men’s singles luge at Lillehammer 2016, going fastest in both runs to make the gold medal his.
Building on the form he showed in picking up a world junior silver medal at Winterberg (GER) and then in pre-race training, Latvia’s Kristers Aparjods surged to luge gold at Lillehammer 2016 on Sunday.
The powerfully built Kristers, who turns 18 on 24 February and is one of the leading lugers on the FILA Junior World Cup circuit, had installed himself as the favourite for YOG gold by showcasing flawless technique in going fastest in the last four training runs at the Fåberg Olympic Sliding Centre.
He duly carried his speed into Sunday’s opening run in the final, held beneath sunny skies and in front of a healthy crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach. Clocking an average speed of 119.6 km/h, the Latvian took the lead at the halfway point of the competition with a time of 47.691, with Russia’s Evgenii Petrov and Germany’s Paul-Lukas Heider the only other lugers to beat the 48-second mark.
Fifth after the first run, Canada’s Reid Watts put in a flying second descent to move up to first place, while Evgenii made a costly mistake at the end of his second 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 an ecstatic Kristers afterwards. “It’s nice everywhere. It’s nice 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.”
Also giving his views was an equally delighted Paul-Lukas, who hails from the country that now dominates world luging and which won all four gold medals on offer at Sochi 2014: “It’s just amazing. I arrived at turn 15 and it’s happened. I know it can be good. I cried and I said: ‘Yes, yes, yes!’. Then I got to the finish and saw No1. I just knew it was a medal, a bronze medal or the silver or the gold. It’s such a great feeling.”
Reid was no less pleased with his efforts, especially after overcoming a technical glitch at the start of his first run, as he explained: “The zipper on my luge boot busted just before I was about to go, so that was kind of a big shocker. After that I was like: ‘That’s going to cost me quite a bit of time’.”
Recovering from the setback, however, the young Canadian ultimately found his way into the medals. “In the end, after all that, it’s unbelievable. It’s crazy. This is just such a great experience, once in a lifetime, and I’m really happy how it turned out.”