* Doubles gold for Olympic debutants
* German pair deny Austrian brothers hat-trick of titles (Adds details)
By Justin Palmer
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Germany’s “Bayern Express” - Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt - lived up to their nickname by powering to a first Olympic doubles gold on Wednesday, denying Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger a hat-trick of titles.
The duo continued Germany’s gold rush in luge, following up Felix Loch and Natalie Geisenberger’s victories in the men’s and women’s singles.
Germany can make it a clean sweep of luge gold at these Games if they win the inaugural team relay on Thursday.
Wendl and Arlt, who have been a team for 13 years and were crowned world champions last year, clocked the fastest times on both runs to win the title at their first Games.
It was the biggest winning margin (0.522 seconds) in Olympic doubles.
The Lingers, winners in 2006 and 2010, won silver this time with Latvian siblings Andris Sics and Juris Sics securing bronze to add to their silver four years ago.
Austrians Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were in bronze medal position after the opening run but lost control of their sled, almost flipping over, on the second run and blew their chance of a podium finish.
Their wobbles down the Sanki Sliding Centre track rekindled memories of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death in a training crash hours before the starting ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
On the anniversary of Kumaritashvili’s death, Romanians Radu Sovaiala and Alexandru Teodorescu were barred from starting over safety concerns with a reserve sled, hastily flown in after they damaged one in training.
Wendl and Arlt, both 26, had already showed their liking for the track having won the World Cup race here last year.
“It’s unbelievable... we’ve had so much fun this week on these runs. We love this track,” Wendl said.
“We knew we could race fast and we really enjoyed it. We are like a family, we really understand one other - perhaps better than other sports’ disciplines.”
Andreas Linger conceded the Austrian brothers had been beaten fair and square.
“It’s like gold for us,” said the 32-year-old, adding that retiring from the sport was not in his thoughts.
“The gold winners were too fast for us today and too good. They have been the best over the past two seasons.”
Suggesting that they could still compete at the next Games in Pyeongchang in 2018, Wolfgang Linger added: “Perhaps we have to learn Korean”.
Despite allowing mixed-gender teams since 1994, the doubles event remains male-dominated due to height, weight and strength compatibility issues between athletes of the opposite sex. (Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Mike Collett-White)