Germany swept the board at the Turin Games four years ago after two golds at Salt Lake City, and although less dominant this season, they remain hot favourites to underline their status on Sunday as the world’s top sliding sports country.
Lange, who also has two four-man titles to his credt, says he is mentally in the zone as he looks to pocket more gold. Lange enjoyed a 0.27sec advantage after the sixth and final training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre with compatriot driver Thomas Florschuetz in hot pursuit.
Notably, that final training session saw everyone make it down safely after a dozen spectacular crashes on Wednesday, one of which led to Swiss pilot Daniel Schmid pulling out.
“My health is more important to me than hurtling down the track like I’m tired of life,” said Schmid. Swiss brakeman Juerg Egger will also miss the two-man bob after he suffered a spinal injury in Friday’s official training, team doctor Christian Schlegel revealed.
“He was brought to Vancouver by helicopter for further observation. He has a cervical spine injury. He can walk, he has no motor function disruption,” said Schlegel.
Another Swiss medal hope, Beat Hefti, was also forced to withdraw after suffering concussion in a crash during Wednesday’s accident-plagued training session.
“The prognosis is very difficult. We’ll have to re-evaluate him each day. Beat Hefti suffered from bruises across his body and a concussion in the crash,” Schlegel said.
Hefti won bronze medals with Martin Annen in the two- and four-man events in the Turin Olympics four years ago and also won a two-man bronze in 2002.
The Whistler track has been widely condemned as too dangerous following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who was killed in a high-speed training crash last week.
Various modifications were made to improve safety, but that hasn’t stopped the crashes as the International Luge Federation (ILF) prepares to hold a full inquiry into the venue after the Games.
Even so, Lange says athletes must accept that crashes come with the territory. “It’s a really challenging, difficult and unbelievably fast track. You have to have a lot of experience to clock a fast time,” Lange said. “Crashes can happen. Corners 11 to 13 aren’t called 50-50 for nothing.”
Given his record and domination of training, German bookmakers have all but stopped taking bets on him at gold medal odds somewhat shorter than that.