Austria’s Linger brothers repeat as doubles luge champs

Brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger of Austria took gold in doubles luge for the second time in four years Wednesday night, at Whistler Sliding Centre.

They became only the second duo in the event’s history to defend their title, since Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn of East Germany were the first to repeat as champions in1980.

The Lingers had the fastest time in both runs of the evening (41.332 and 41.373 seconds), edging out the combined score of siblings, Latvia’s Andris and Juris Sics, by just 0.264 seconds.

It was a triumphant end to an up-and-down season for the Austrians, who only won one World Cup event and looked shaky coming into the Olympics despite being golden in Turin.

The favourites going into the event had been Germany’s current World Cup leaders Andre Florschutz and Torsten Wustlich, who have  won three World Championships since the 2006 Winter Games.

After a slow start on their first run left them sitting fifth, the German frontrunners were forced to settle for bronze, finishing in a time of 1:23.404, (0.335 seconds off the pace).

The silver medal for Latvia’s Sics brothers came as a shock because the pairing had never finished on the World Cup podium, however their amazing start time in their first run was enough to keep them in second place.

With the tragic death of Georgia’s Nodar Kumaritashvili on Friday, a lowered starting gate position may have been partly responsible for a more evenly spread field of 20 teams.

The doubles luge was moved to the junior start, at the entrance of turn six, and the old run of 1,198 metres became 953 metres, a 20 per cent cut.

While most teams traditionally build on natural speed gained from the sloped entrance of full-length tracks, Whistler’s run left teams forced to create their own start.

Canadian Chris Moffat was one half of a third ‘sibling slider team’ competing Wednesday night, and he told the Canwest News Service, “it’s all in the start, as soon as they move it down, it took all of our advantage away.’’

Along with brother Mike, the Moffats finished in a respectable seventh position, a two-spot improvement from their last Olympic experience.

Meanwhile the second Canadian duo of Justin Snith and Tristan Walker finished in the 15th spot, well out of contention.