Sports

LOCH AND LOAD

Felix Loch does not suffer from nerves or feel any pressure.

Becoming the youngest Olympic luge gold medallist at the age of 20 is testament of his mental strength.

With the first two runs (out of four) of the men's competition taking place today, the German policeman said he would sleep easy and let others worry about how to beat him.

"I have the medal at home, I think the pressure is on others," said a relaxed Loch (right), after completing his final preparations at the Sanki Sliding Centre yesterday.

Loch was second quickest on his sixth and final training run behind Russian Albert Demchenko, and he was annoyed by a "little mistake".

But he brushed it off with another wry smile.

"It's not a problem. Training is training and racing is racing," he said.

Introduced to the sport by his father Norbert, who competed in luge at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, Loch has dominated the sport since his Olympic triumph in Vancouver.

His success should come as no surprise with Loch having the great Georg Hackl, who won three successive luge golds between 1992 and 1998, as a friend and mentor.

"The training runs were really good - six good runs," Loch said.

"It is important to have two good runs tomorrow and two good times on Sunday - I hope it will be a good race for me."

Compared to Whistler four years ago, Loch said the Sanki track was "easier to drive", but "not so fast".

"It is hard to drive a good time. All athletes can drive well here but not fast - that's really hard," he said. "Tomorrow, you will see I think 30 men driving a good line, but only five men are driving a good time.

"Out of curve five is an uphill part and it's really important to make no mistake. Because if you do, you lose so much time and will have no chance to win any medal."

Asked if he was a better luger now than when he won the Olympic gold four years ago, Loch merely shrugged.

He said: "Better now? I don't know. I'm not better... maybe a little faster. You learn to drive faster each year." - Reuters.

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