The new king of luge: Germany’s Johannes Ludwig wins Olympic gold | WJHL
BEIJING (AP) — Johannes Ludwig let all his rivals know in November that he would be the one to beat at the Beijing Olympics.
He was right.
Ludwig is the first-time men’s Olympic champion, making him the oldest – he is eight days shy of turning 36 – to win gold in this race. Ludwig completed four runs at the Yanqing Sliding Center in 3 minutes, 48.735 seconds, 0.160 seconds ahead of Wolfgang Kindl of Austria and 0.951 seconds ahead of bronze medalist Dominik Fischnaller of Italy.
“I had a lot of not-so-successful years,” Ludwig said. “In 2014, I didn’t qualify for the Olympics. I had a lot of fourth places at the world championships; I think maybe five. The fun of this sport is to always keep pushing, and I think this medal is a sign that I did the right thing.
It’s no surprise that a German won, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s Ludwig’s turn. There have been 16 Olympic men’s luge races; a German has won 11. Ludwig was a bronze medalist at the Pyeongchang Games four years ago, then made it clear he would be the one to catch at the Beijing Games when he arrived in China for the race. opening of the World Cup and simply routed the peloton.
“I know that moment and Johannes, he worked a long time for that medal,” said Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion from Germany who finished fourth and hugged Ludwig warmly at the end of the race. “And now he has the medal. It’s great for him and we’re going to celebrate with him.
Ludwig was almost a second better than anyone else at that World Cup last fall, which is just two rounds, not the Olympic four. His margin of victory at this World Cup was the largest ever in luge in almost eight years, a simply dominant performance.
Kindl bridged the gap between Ludwig and the rest of the world at the Beijing Games.
And with that, the dream season for Ludwig is over – the overall World Cup champion, and now, the Olympic crown. He already knew what Olympic gold looked like after being part of the team that won the relay for Germany in Pyeongchang.
This time, however, the top step of the podium was his and his alone.
Kindl grabbed an Austrian flag at the end of his race, perfectly happy with the Olympic silver. Fischnaller couldn’t contain his celebration as he clinched his medal, hugging his longtime partner Emily Sweeney of the United States – she is competing in the women’s race which begins on Monday – and screaming into the freezing air.
“Hopefully that’s a really good omen and maybe she’ll have something around her neck in two days,” Fischnaller said.
Ludwig was a bronze medalist at the Pyeongchang Games, denying Fischnaller a medal by 0.002 seconds – nowhere near long enough to blink an eye. Fischnaller carried that disappointment for four years.
“Finally I have it now and I’m very excited, happy, relieved,” said Fischnaller.
Defending Olympic gold medalist David Gleirscher of Austria struggled in both runs on Sunday and finished only 15th.
The field went from 34 sliders to 20 for the fourth and final round, and all three American men qualified for round four. Chris Mazdzer, the silver medalist from the Pyeongchang Games, finished eighth. Tucker West finished 13th – his best result in three Olympic appearances. And Jonny Gustafson finished 19th in his Olympic debut.
“I’m definitely going to take eighth place,” said Mazdzer, who will compete in the team relay later this week in what will almost certainly be his last Olympic event. “My best result this year. It feels good. It does.”
By the time of the fourth and final moto, it was clearly a two-man race. Barring disaster, Ludwig or Kindl would be the winner; Ludwig’s margin over Kindl was 0.112 seconds after three runs, 0.722 seconds – that’s a big margin in luge – over Fischnaller’s third-place finish.
Ludwig, the last sled on the track, was flawless.
He wouldn’t let the gold slip away, grabbing his helmet in disbelief before jumping into a crowd of happy German athletes and coaches to start the celebration.
“I’m pretty happy,” Ludwig said.
Among other notables, Fan Duoyao — China’s first male luge Olympian — finished 24th. Mateusz Sochowicz of Poland, the slider who broke his left kneecap and cut his right leg to the bone in a practice crash at the Yanqing track in November, finished 25th.
And Saba Kumaritashvili, the cousin of Nodar Kumartashvili – the slider from the former Soviet republic of Georgia who died in a training accident hours before the official opening of the Vancouver Games in 2010 – was 31st. He crossed the finish line, smiled broadly and raised his fists in celebration.
“I am very happy,” Kumaritashvili said. “I did what I needed.”
He left feeling like a winner. Many others too. Ludwig surpassed them all.
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