"With the finale in Winterleiten (AUT), the FIL World Cup in natural track luge came to an end in mid-February. Natural Track Sports Director Andreas Castiglioni (see photo on the left) reflects on the 2023/2024 season in an interview. 

Andreas Castiglioni

Berchtesgaden (FIL/14.03.2024) FIL: What stands out to you from the past season? 
Andreas Castiglioni: "Well, of course, it's unforgettable that it was the first winter without the retired stars Greta Pinggera (ITA), Thomas Kammerlander (AUT), and Alex Gruber (ITA). This fact has particularly opened up significant opportunities for the next generation, especially among the men." 

FIL: Which were indeed seized... 
Castiglioni: "Exactly, in Laas, for example, Daniel Gruber (ITA) celebrated his first World Cup victory, while Winterleiten witnessed the breakthrough moment for Fabian Brunner (ITA). So, there were two new faces in the winner's circle. It's quite remarkable because since the 2016/2017 season, Kammerlander, Gruber, and Michael Scheikl (AUT) had won all the races. Riccarda Ruetz (AUT) had a formidable season among the women, winning the Junior World Cup and impressing with a second-place finish in the overall World Cup. Also notable was the European Championship title of Maximilian Pichler/Nico Edlinger (AUT) in doubles, who engaged in an intense season-long rivalry with Matthias Lambacher/Peter Lambacher (ITA)." 

FIL: Let's talk statistics. Both Patrick Pigneter (ITA) and Evelin Lanthaler (ITA) reached a milestone, each securing their 50th World Cup victory... 
Castiglioni: "50 victories is a significant number, or rather, a very, very significant number. We don't have 20-30 races per year, but only six. This highlights the extraordinary achievements of these two exceptional athletes. To reach 50 victories, you have to compete at the top for ten years or more, and ideally, win regularly. Truly impressive." 

FIL: How do you assess the season from an organizational perspective? 
Castiglioni: "The World Cup debut on the new natural luge track in Kühtai (AUT) was more than successful. The images broadcasted worldwide via livestream showcased top-tier sports in a breathtaking landscape: abundant fresh snow against a backdrop of radiant blue skies - it couldn't get any better. In Umhausen (AUT), we finally had an eliminator again, and the European Championships in Jaufental (ITA) were a crowd-puller." 

Kühtai Winterlandschaft

Winter wonderland at the World Cup in Kühtai

FIL: But the finale in Romania fell through... 
Castiglioni: "That's correct, last year the World Championships had to be relocated from Vatra Dornei to Deutschnofen (ITA) at short notice, and this year the finale was moved to Winterleiten. February 2024 was the warmest in much of Europe since records began, and as natural track lugers, we really felt it - if the water doesn't freeze, there's no ice, and without ice, there's no race. On a positive note, there's a great atmosphere among the local organizers, and we always manage to quickly find an alternative venue. Therefore, weather-related cancellations and postponements will always happen; we can't control that. What's important is to act swiftly and find solutions because athletes want to compete and race. And as a team, we succeeded in that. Everyone gave their best, and it was a superb season."