February 11, 2022
By David Kirton
YANQING, China (Reuters) -Not content with his country merely dominating luge, Germany’s Cristopher Grotheer took gold in the men’s skeleton in a peerless performance that further cemented the status of this year’s German crop as one for the history books.
The 29-year-old police officer smashed through four runs along the 1,615-metre track of the National Sliding Center in Yanqing in a sensational 4:01.01.
He was 0.66 faster than his countryman Axel Jungk, a yawning gap by skeleton standards and a big leap from his seventh finish in Pyeongchang four years ago.
In skeleton, riders plummet head first down an ice track at speeds up to 130 km an hour, using slight tweaks of muscle to navigate bends with G-forces sometimes more extreme than in a rocket launch.
Germany has long been the hegemon of luge, and has vacuumed up all four golds on offer this Games. But Grotheer is the country’s first athlete to receive the highest honours in the skeleton, which returned to the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.
It was also a remarkable race for China, with Yan Wengang claiming the country’s first ever medal in the sliding sports.
Considering the country’s sliding programme began from scratch seven years ago when China was chosen to host the Winter Olympics, it is fast progress.
Yan was not China’s highest-flying skeleton ride prior to the games. That is Geng Wenqiang, who won China’s first medal on the World Cup medal circuit with a bronze in January, but he was left off the team.
Yan will have silenced any doubts about his abilities. His compatriot Yin Zheng also managed an impressive fifth place, behind Russian Sochi gold medallist Alexander Tretiakov.
In the women’s event, Australia’s Jaclyn Narracott was in the top spot after the first two runs on Friday morning, followed by Grotheer’s compatriots Hannah Neise and Tina Hermann in second and third.
The finale is on Saturday.
(Reporting by David Kirton;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)