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Throwback: Late luge starter Hackl earns historic Winter Games status

CESANA PARIOL, ITALY - FEBRUARY 12:  Georg Hackl of Germany competes in his final run in the Mens Luge Single Final on Day 2 of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games on February 12, 2006 in Cesana Pariol, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Starting by mistake

February 11, 2002

Georg Hackl initially only tried his hand at the sport of luge at the suggestion of a teacher for his physical education lessons.

In 2002, at the age of 35, he sealed silver at Salt Lake City 2002 to cap a fifth consecutive Olympic Winter Games with a medal.

Hackl initially had no great aspirations for Olympic glory. A locksmith by trade, he then joined the army where he more readily embraced the high-speed sport.

 

Building a legacy

What was all the more remarkable is that it was initially suggested he did not have the starts to be capable of beating the world best, a situation changed by a start range being built specifically for him to train on at the luge track in Königssee, close to his home in Germany.

That construction followed his first Olympic foray at Nagano 1988, in which he finished in second place overall. Four years later he had improved that to gold in Albertville.

 

Making History

His 1998 victory was the most impressive as he became the first man in history to top the times in all four of the runs.

It started a period of dominance in the sport, in which he enjoyed three straight Olympic titles as well as an astonishing 22 medals at the World Championships.

Hackl returned for what was expected to be a final hurrah at Salt Lake City to win silver and make him the first man in Winter Games history to win a medal at five straight Olympic appearances.

Not satisfied with five, aged 39 he returned to the Olympics once more in 2006 but had to make do with a seventh-place finish after which he retired from the sport.

 

It’s all in the mind

According to his coach Thomas Schwaben, it was Hackl’s mental approach – “psychologists say it could not be better” – which gave him the edge over his rivals.

With a reputation for generally being mild mannered, a daily newspaper once suggested he lacked intelligence back in 1992 so he sued them and duly won the case.

 

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