February 11, 2014 / 7:07 PM / 4 years ago

Geisenberger wins gold but team discord evident

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger was in a class of her own, again smashing the track record to win her first Olympic luge title on Tuesday but compatriot and silver medalist Tatjana Huefner said the winner was “favored” by her federation.

Germany's Natalie Geisenberger celebrates after winning the women's luge singles competition during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Geisenberger’s superiority was such that she was the only slider to clock under 50 seconds - a feat the 2010 bronze medalist managed on three of her four runs.

Her dominant performance easily eclipsed Vancouver champion Huefner and the pair exchanged the barest of cordial pleasantries.

Germany, who also celebrated gold on Monday when Felix Loch successfully defended his men’s title, are the dominant force in luge but Huefner hinted at clear divisions in the team.

“I have a feeling that Natalie Geisenberger is a favorite with the federation,” she told a news conference which started before the gold medal winner had arrived.

”She had a lot of support in Germany, from the coach and the team. I had one trainer for three years but later I had to change coach. My favorite trainer could not follow me here.

“I was very disappointed. It is such defining moments that make a career or ruin it.”

She added that she had experienced “troubles among our coaches, in our federation ... distractions all along the way.”


Geisenberger, taking her seat between Huefner and American bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, was bemused to be told of Heufner’s comments.

Winner Germany's Natalie Geisenberger (R) and second-placed compatriot Tatjana Huefner raise their national flags after the women's singles luge event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, at the Sanki Sliding Center in Rosa Khutor February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“I have never heard or felt any kind of favoritism inside our federation. I have nothing to complain about,” she said.

Geisenberger, 26, belongs to the same Berchtesgaden training group, along with Loch, that comes under the wing of three-time Olympic champion Georg Hackl in the German luge mecca of Koenigssee in Bavaria.

She came into the Games having dominated the World Cup circuit, winning seven of eight events this season, and she set the tone on Monday with a track record on her first run.

“I am in the best shape that I have ever been in. You get this chance only once in your life - the Olympics are only once every four years and you have to be at your absolute best at this time,” said the Munich-born police officer.

”The first three runs were perfect and the fourth was good enough. I knew I could afford a small mistake in the final run and still win so I put 100 percent of effort into the start and not 110 percent.

“Near the end I knew it was enough. I wanted to scream with joy even before the race was over.”

With a commanding lead from day one, Geisenberger returned to the Sanki Siding Centre on Tuesday and promptly set another track record, this time a 49.765 seconds blitz.

Gold within her grasp, she did not have to push with her final slide and eased to victory by 1.139 seconds - the third biggest margin in women’s singles since luge was introduced at the Games in 1964.

Hamlin, who put an end to Germany’s 12-year world championship reign in 2009, was thrilled to reach the podium - the first medal ever won by an American luger in singles.

“I was the first American to win the worlds and now I’ve done this, I hope it paves the way for a new generation of female American lugers,” she said.

“I haven’t turned my phone on for 24 hours, when I do it’s going to explode.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford and Julian Linden

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