German teenager Felix Loch easily held off five-time world champion and two-time Olympic champ Armin Zoeggeler of Italy to win his second straight title at the luge world championships on Saturday.
“I just thought I’d have to do two solid runs, that’s all,” said 19-year-old Loch, who tore two shoulder ligaments during a November crash on the Olympic track at Whistler. “I’m trying to win a World Cup.”
Loch, the youngest world champ in history a year ago at 18, posted a winning time of 1 minute, 44.336 seconds in two trips down the 20-turn course at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Zoeggeler finished in 1:44.549, 0.123 seconds behind. Austria’s Daniel Pfister finished in 1:45.037 to win bronze, nearly three-quarters of a second behind the winner.
After the first run, the race for gold was between only Loch and Zoeggeler as they separated themselves from the rest of the field. A year ago, Loch, David Moeller and Andi Langenhan led a German sweep at the worlds in Oberhof, Germany.
Both Moeller and Langenhan were out of gold-medal contention after Saturday’s first run, trailing their teammate by more than a half-second.
They had plenty of company because Loch and Zoeggeler were in another zone. Even Germany’s Jan Eichhorn, one of four sliders to break the track record on the first run, was more than a quarter of a second — an eternity in luge — behind Loch entering the final run.
Zoeggeler thought his chances for victory were slim at best.
“I saw that Felix had a mistake in his first run and I thought if he made a good second run it would be difficult to climb to the top,” said the 35-year-old Zoeggeler, who has won four of the past five World Cup races and 42 overall in his impressive career. “I won second place with two solid, constant runs. For me, it was not possible. Felix was better.”
Pfister began the competition by clocking 52.271 seconds, besting the track mark of 52.278 set on Friday by Canada’s Sam Edney.
Zoeggeler, his silver helmet gleaming in the Adirondack Mountain air, slid next and clocked 51.982. Four sleds later, Loch zoomed down in 51.939 to take a slim 0.043 seconds lead that in the end proved insurmountable.
“This one means more because it was not on a home track like last year,” Loch said. “I have no time to celebrate now because of the team relay [set to be held yesterday], but I will find something, even at 19.”