WHISTLER, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Austria’s Manuel Pfister clocked the fastest speed ever recorded by a luger at Whistler’s Sliding Centre on Thursday, prompting fears that sliders have now reached the absolute limit of what is safe.
Pfister peaked at 154kmh during training for the weekend’s men’s luge competition — his ice-scorching run eclipsing the 153.98kmh achieved by Germany’s world champion Felix Loch at the same venue in a World Cup race last February.
Loch’s record still stands, according to luge governing body the FIL, because his run was in competition.
“(Double Olympic champion) Armin Zoeggeler is convincecd that we will reach 155kmh here during the Olympics,” FIL spokesman Wolfgang Harder told Reuters on Thursday.
“We are going to have to put in speed limits for the next track which will be built for sure for the next Olympics. We think 155kmh should be the limit. We have to take care of the security of our athletes.
“If you stick your head out of the sunroof of a car at 155kmh you can imagine how that would feel. In our opinion safety is the most important thing.”
Much of the talk leading up to the Olympic sliding events has been about the speed of the track and the face-contorting G-forces on some of the 16 corners.
Pfister’s brother Daniel said there was no reason to think speeds will not go even higher than 155kmh at the weekend.
“I think we’re going to really get 156 or 157kmh, we’re getting closer and closer (to 100 mph),” he said.
The Whistler track drops the equivalent of a 48-storey tower block during its 1,400 metres, plunging sliders through a labyrinth of corners where the slightest loss of line can end in a serious crash.
Guntis Rekis of Latvia and Germany’s Stefan Hoehner both had high-speed crashes on Thursday.
“My goals are to stay alive, not break and bones and catch some good Whistler feeling,” Rekis told reporters. “I was scared a bit, my entrance to corner 11 was good then I just lost it.
“It’s my first crash this year, I’m a bit confused,” added Hoehner. “When you’re sliding on your ass at 150kmh it hurts.”
Experienced American Tony Benshoof agreed that the Whistler track had taken speeds to the maximum.
“We are very close to the ceiling of how fast you can go on a sledge now,” he told Reuters. “We are going faster and faster and it’s going to get to a point where it’s just a little too much...it’s getting pretty crazy.”
Editing by Miles Evans; To query or comment on this story firstname.lastname@example.org