Yanqing proves a treasure trove for Germany's sliders

YANQING, China, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The Yanqing National Sliding Centre is in a suburban district in Beijing, but Germany's sliders turned the "Flying Snow Dragon" into a Bavarian fortress, yielding ten golds and firing their country to second in the Winter Olympics medal table.

Germany has long been a sliding sports powerhouse. But what its teams achieved in Yanqing, over 7,000 kilometres east of Munich, is unprecedented.

Gold followed gold in the luge, with singles athletes Johannes Ludwig and Natalie Geisenberger then teaming up with the "Bayern Express" doubles pair of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt to steamroll to gold in the team relay.

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Skeleton was Germany's relative weakness prior to the Games, but Christopher Grotheer and Hannah Neise changed all that, taking the country's first ever golds in the event.

In bobsleigh, the German medal fest continued, with three German teams atop the podium of the two-man event, the first time a country has made a clean sweep in the sport going back to the first Olympics 98 years ago.

The Germans were 0.06 seconds away from repeating the clean sweep in the four-man finale, only for Canada's Justin Kripps and crew to deny them the bronze spot on the podium.

Only in the Olympics' first ever monobob did Germany miss out on gold, where Canadian-born Kaillie Humphries led the pack to pick up her first medal in U.S. colours.

American Elana Mayers Taylor brought the feel-good factor to the Yanqing mountains, picking up silver in the monobob just days after coming out of COVID-19 isolation and bronze in the two-woman bobsleigh.

After the 37-year-old missed out on being the flag bearer in the opening ceremony, teammates gave her a second chance in the closing instead.

The Games saw the sun set on Britain's skeleton fortunes following the retirement of all-time great Lizzy Yarnold, with Laura Deas finishing 19th, far from the bronze she mustered in Pyeongchang four years before.

Her slow speed belied her smooth and efficient runs - an issue that dogged the British skeleton men and duo Mica McNeil and Montell Douglas in the two-woman bobsleigh. An inquest into Britain's equipment awaits.

Some competitors will remember the Yanqing track's 13th curve as one of the Games' villains, with the tricky technical corner wreaking havoc on several contenders' best-laid plans, particularly in the luge.

But almost all athletes sung the track's praises, with the world's first 360-degree loop and combination of speed-building straights and tough corners delivering a challenge worthy of its champions.

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Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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