WHISTLER (Reuters) - Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger produced a perfect piece of timing to defend their Olympic luge doubles title on Wednesday.
The Lingers, one of four sets of siblings in the last luge event, jumped for joy after edging out Latvians Andris and Juris Sics to land Austria’s first gold medal of the Games.
It was a close-run thing, however, with just a slither of ice separating the podium places.
The Lingers’ winning margin was 0.264 seconds and Germany’s Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch, who took the bronze medal, were less than a tenth of a second away from silver after a storming second run lifted them up from fifth.
”It’s just great to win four years after Turin,“ 28-year-old Andreas, one year older than his brother, told reporters. ”There was a lot of pressure to come here as reigning champions.
“For sure, we will have a little party, maybe it will become huge,” his brother added.
The Sics brothers were happy with silver, despite going so close to winning their country’s first Winter Olympic gold.
“It’s perfect,” Andris Sics, whose brother got them involved in luge after getting caught sliding down the local track on a plastic sledge as a nine-year-old, told reporters.
“Always you want to be first but second place for small Latvia is wonderful. We trained hard and got in the top three.”
The Lingers’ sense of timing was impeccable as they became the first team to win consecutive Olympic golds in luge doubles since Germans Hans Rinn and Hans Brandner in 1980.
They were doubles world champions in 2003 but faded into obscurity before returning to the top of the podium at the 2006 Olympics when Wolfgang competed with metal pins in his leg after fracturing his left ankle in a crash.
One victory from eight World Cup races this season was hardly champion form but they responded on a Whistler course reduced to the junior start with two perfect runs.
Noisy celebrations at the finish where Austrians unfurled a large flag and rang cow bells and Canadians pranced around bare-chested were a stark contrast to the somber mood in which the luge events began after the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili.
The Georgian slider died after a horrific crash on Thunderbird corner and there was a reminder of just how dangerous the sport can be in Wednesday’s first run.
Austrians Tobias and Markus Schiegl lost control at the same point where Kumaritashvili met his death and smashed heavily into the inside wall before sliding over the finish line but they escaped uninjured.
Editing by Ed Osmond