Hackl, Georg


Hackl, Georg
▪ 1999

      By winning the gold medal in the men's singles in luge at the Winter Games at Nagano, Japan, in February 1998, Georg Hackl of Germany established himself as the greatest Olympic luger of all time. With his triumph Hackl became the first luger and only the sixth athlete to win a Winter Olympics event three consecutive times. He accomplished that feat at Nagano by winning all four runs of the two-day competition—the first time that had ever been done in the Olympic Games—to finish with a time of 3 min 18.436 sec, more than half a second ahead of the silver medalist, Armin Zoeggeler of Italy.

      Hackl was born Sept. 9, 1966, in Berchtesgaden, Ger., a resort town in the Alps where grammar-school students could luge in physical education class. Hackl, who never considered himself much of an athlete, took to the sport immediately. He did not develop any real advantage, however, until he served an apprenticeship as a metalworker and learned the essential sled-building skills that lugers must possess. He built his first sled at age 16, and from then on his unmatched ability to adjust his sled to the conditions of the race helped carry him to success. Along with his metalworking expertise, Hackl was credited with possessing nerves of steel. Total concentration is essential to winning in a sport in which the difference between winning and losing is only a fraction of a second. Racers must stay relaxed while guiding a sled at speeds of up to 130 km/h (80 mph) while using only their toes to steer. Hackl used his uncanny powers of concentration time and again to thwart his rival, Markus Prock of Austria.

      The favourite at the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary, Alta., Prock performed poorly because of choppy ice caused by warm weather. Hackl, however, adjusted to the conditions and finished with a silver medal. Although Hackl finished first at the world championships in 1989 and 1990 and second in 1991, Prock was once again the favourite at the 1992 Winter Olympics at Albertville, France. Hackl and Prock stood first and second, respectively, after the first day of competition, but snow fell the next day. Hackl tinkered with his equipment and came away with his first gold medal, beating Prock by 0.3 sec. Two years later, at the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Nor., Prock again was favoured, and he led the field after three runs; Hackl, however, turned in the second best run of the day on his final try, and Prock faltered. Once again Hackl won the gold, Prock the silver.

      Despite winning the world championships again in 1997, Hackl went back to the workshop to find a way to improve his chances in the Nagano Games. With smaller, better runners on his sled, he was able to dominate the field and win the gold medal once again.

ANTHONY G. CRAINE

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▪ German luger
born September 9, 1966, Berchtesgaden, West Germany

      German luger who was the only singles luger to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals (1992, 1994, and 1998). Hackl's cool demeanour and ability to adapt his sled to race conditions forged his reputation as the dominant luger of his time.

      Hackl was born and raised in the Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden, just four miles from the Königssee luge course where he trained his entire life. At age 16, he learned metallurgy and began building his own sleds. His Olympic successes took root at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, when, despite a glitch in his start, he claimed the silver medal in the singles luge competition. He returned to the Olympics in 1992 at Albertville, France, with polished starts, a refined technique, and an older style of sled. He took first place easily by winning three of the four runs and beating silver medalist Markus Prock (Austria) by 0.3 second in the final standings.

      The Albertville finish was an early result in a rivalry between Hackl and Prock that dominated the luge sport in the 1990s. Both Hackl and Prock were excellent sled drivers, but Prock, an exceptionally gifted athlete, used powerful starts (vital in luge competition) to collect 10 World Cup titles between 1987 and 2002, as well as two world championships. Hackl, however, proved to be the better performer in the big races—most notably at the Olympics. He remained the Olympic champion, narrowly defeating Prock by 0.013 second at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. At the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, Hackl recorded the fastest time on all four runs of the competition and earned his third consecutive gold medal in luge singles. Hackl attempted to win a fourth consecutive gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, but he came in second to Armin Zoeggeler of Italy. Prock took the bronze.

      Among Hackl's other victories were the singles world championship as well as the World Cup in both 1989 and 1990. He won a third world championship in 1997.

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Universalium. 2010.

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