Italian luge great Armin Zoeggeler will feel more than a sense of pride before his opening slide in his sixth winter Olympics — at 40 years old he still means business.
Dubbed “The Cannibal” for devouring the opposition in a career that has earned him two Olympic titles, a silver medal and two bronzes, six world titles and 57 individual victories, Zoeggeler is hungry for one final hurrah.
The policeman, who started natural track luging at the tender age of seven, will proudly carry his country’s flag at today’s opening ceremony before starting his golden quest the following day.
“The Olympic track is very challenging and it will not be easy to win a place on the podium, but I will do my best for it,” he told reporters.
Zoeggeler regards the Olympics as an “absolute highlight” and can make history as the first winter Olympian to win six successive medals in a single event.
Zoeggeler said his dedication to training and the “intoxicating joy” he feels at winning medals ensures he is always well prepared.
“Only through self-discipline and iron training during the summer is it possible to still be there [competing at the top level] and the fun factor in the sport should also not be discounted,” he said.
Zoeggeler, whose Olympic golds came in 2002 and 2006 — only German great Georg Hackl has more with three — has enjoyed a consistent season, racking up two World Cup wins and two podium finishes.
His performances earned him second place overall behind defending Olympic champion and gold medal favorite Felix Loch of Germany.
In the final race before Sochi, Zoeggeler claimed a third European title and, although Loch was absent from the competition, the Italian was still thrilled.
“Even though the best German lugers were missing, it’s still a great feeling to travel to the Olympic Games with such a victory,” he said.
Both Loch and Zoeggeler looked sharp in their first training runs at the Sanki Sliding Center on Wednesday, with the German fastest of all on the first slide and the Italian posting the quickest time on the second run.
As well as the formidable challenge from Loch and German compatriot David Moeller — the silver medalist in Whistler four years ago — Zoeggeler hailed young Italian Dominik Fischnaller as the man to succeed him.
“The young German athletes and also my teammate Dominik Fischnaller are top fit and they will not make it easy for me to reach the podium in Sochi,” he said.