With the World Championships decided and the European Championships just around the corner, the Viessmann World Cup is due to reach Sochi in Russia this weekend in between this winter’s two major title fights – the 46th FIL World Championships in Königssee (GER) last weekend, and the 47th FIL European Championships in Altenberg (GER) the weekend after next. The 10th of 12 events staged in the 2015/2016 winter season is due to be held on the Olympic track in the Sanki Sliding Center.
All the World Champions crowned in Königssee travel to the Black Sea coast at the top of the Viessmann World Cup standings, except in the team relay standings which are currently headed by Latvia, the World Championship runners-up in Königssee. Olympic gold medallist Natalie Geisenberger (GER) currently has 680 points, giving her a clear margin over her teammate Dajana Eitberger (608) and America’s Summer Britcher (603). In the men’s event, Felix Loch has 690 points and is being pursued by Wolfgang Kindl (600), who claimed third in Königssee, and Chris Mazdzer (USA/511), who had to settle for two fourth place finishes in Königssee. In doubles, the Olympic Champions Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (767) currently lead their compatriots Toni Eggert/Sascha Benecken (730). The Austrians Peter Penz/Georg Fischler (665) lie third.
The team relay will be the fourth of six races in Sochi. As front-runners in the Viessmann Team Relay World Cup presented by BMW, the Latvians currently have 255 points and lead World Champions Germany (246) and the US team (210).
European Champions are also last year’s winners
The current European Champions are also the winners of last year’s Viessmann Luge World Cup in Sochi, Russia. Dajana Eitberger from Germany, the Russian Semen Pavlichenko, Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER) and the German relay team all won European Championship gold on the 2014 Olympic track at the final event of the 2014/2015 winter season, which also doubled as the 46th FIL European Championships.
The Sanki Sliding Center in the hills above Krasnaya Polyana is set to host the Viessmann Luge World Cup for a third time, following their events in 2013 and 2015. In 2013 the winners were Tatjana Hüfner, Andi Langenhan, Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (all GER) and the German relay team. At the 2014 Winter Olympics Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch, Wendl/Arlt and the German team all secured victory.
Martina Kocher: lightweight luger is a heavy-hitter
Martina Kocher’s previous best results were two fifth places in the Viessmann Luge World Cup along with sixth place in the overall standings in 2014/2015 and a seventh place finish at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Whistler, Canada. Kocher, who hails from Switzerland, took the opportunity to train with the German national team as part of the partnership arrangement organized by the International Luge Federation (FIL), without giving any inkling of her future success. She was always in the running, but never at the head of the field.
However, the lightweight athlete joined the heavy-hitters as the FIL Sprint made its debut at the World Championships in Königssee. The 30-year old slider from Bern, who at 60 kilos is considerably slighter than her rivals, drove the race of her life to become the first Sprint World Champion in the history of the sport. "It hasn’t really sunk in yet," stammered the PE teacher, with tears of joy streaming down her face.
Kocher had finished eighth in the qualifying session for the sprint race. She was the seventh luger to take to the start line for the race, which features a shortened track and a flying start. Kocher utilized her momentum, excellent equipment and an aerodynamic driving position to their full effect. She also benefited from a new race suit which was tailor-made for her by former alpine skier Daniel Albrecht at the start of the season. The first ever sprint World Champion is trained by Stefan Höhener, a former luger himself, and of course by her father Heinz, who is a former head coach of the Swiss bobsleigh and skeleton team. Kocher followed up her gold in the sprint with another silver in the Olympic women’s discipline.
However, she is not Switzerland’s first luge World Champion: Elisabeth Nagele won gold at the World Championships in Girenbach (SUI) in 1961. And another Swiss athlete has played a key role in the history of the sprint: Sepp Benz, who was Chairman of the FIL Sports Commission until 2014. His lasting legacy when he retired was the rule book for the sprint race. Little did he know that a fellow Swiss athlete would win the title when the event made its debut.
The Sochi timetable Discipline Local time
February 06, 2016 1st run, Doubles 10:00
2nd run, Doubles 11:20
1st run, women’s singles 14:20
2nd run, women’s singles 15:40
February 07, 2016 1st run, men’s single 09.45
2nd run, men’s single 11.20
Team Relay 13:30
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