Preview 51st FIL World Championships in Oberhof (GER)
Oberhof (FIL) This weekend, from January 26 to 29, 2023, the 51st FIL Luge World Championships will be held at the LOTTO Thüringen EISARENA in Oberhof. For the fourth time after 1973, 1985 and 2008, the FIL Luge World Championships will take place in Thuringia. A total of 143 athletes from 20 nations have registered for this year's title bouts, including 36 women, 30 men, 16 women's and 21 men's doubles as well as eleven team relays.
The medals will be awarded in the Men's and Women's singles, Men's and Women's doubles, Team relay and Sprint events. Apart from the Team relay and the Sprint competitions, two decision heats are scheduled in each case.
With the introduction of the separate competitions in doubles for the 2021/22 season, Oberhof will host only the second World Championships in women's doubles. In the course of the FIL's efforts to promote gender equality, the number of male and female athletes in the starting groups has also been equalized for the 2022/23 season. For the first time, the same number of women as men are eligible to start.
Recently excluded from the competitions due to Corona, the athletes in Oberhof can look forward to the loud support of their families, friends and fans. Thanks to extensive modernization of the LOTTO Thüringen EISARENA, the conditions at the track have been improved for spectators and athletes alike. After three construction phases in the summers of 2020 to 2022, the 1354.5-meter-long track with 15 curves will shine in futuristic splendor. Among other things, the technical facilities and lighting were renewed, the sun awnings were replaced and individual curves and tracks were covered in a bronze-colored metal look. In addition, the women's and men's start areas were expanded, a new weigh house and a modern press center were built. With a total investment of 31.5 million Euros, a future-oriented energy concept, new safety standards and many other innovations were realized.
The 51st FIL World Championships will be officially opened on Thursday, January 26, at 6 p.m. in the presence of Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow and FIL President Einars Fogelis at the Medal Plaza in the Kurpark in Oberhof.
Who will win the World Championship medals?
At the last Luge World Championships in Oberhof from January 24 to 27, 2008, the medals went to Germany, Austria and Latvia. Tatjana Hüfner, Felix Loch, André Florschütz/Torsten Wustlich and Team Germany won four golds in the four Olympic disciplines so far. But at the 2023 World Championships, further disciplines and thus medal chances will be added with the women's doubles and the sprint World Championships in the LOTTO Thüringen EISARENA. The World Cup dress rehearsal took place in 2022 with the EBERSPÄCHER World Cup in Oberhof. Three times gold, three times silver, twice bronze was the German balance one year before the World Cup. In the women's singles, victory went to Austria. The duel between the German world champion Julia Taubitz and Madeleine Egle was won by the Tyrolean at the EBERSPÄCHER World Cup 2022. Latvian and Austrian athletes were also particularly strong in the singles, doubles and team events. Therefore, the excitement for the 51st FIL World Championships in 2023 is high; Therefore, the anticipation for the 51st FIL World Championships is high, because competition stimulates the business.
Loch, Langenhan, Kindl, Gleirscher, Fischnaller or Aparjods?
If you look at the seven World Cups held this season, the chances seem to be very even. Austria, Italy and Germany have each won two World Cup races in the men's singles. Latvia was victorious once with Kristers Aparjods, who additionally won a bronze medal at the European Championships at home in Sigulda and the penultimate World Cup before the World Championships. The 24-year-old is to be reckoned with especially on technically difficult tracks, which absolutely puts him in the tightest circle of favorites for the World Championships in Oberhof. "In Oberhof there are some similar passages as on my home track in Sigulda. I achieved my first podium at the European Championships two years ago in Oberhof, but I also injured myself badly there once. I know that I can be fast at the World Championships in Oberhof and it would be my absolute dream to win there", said the 24-year-old Latvian confidently.
Germany's luge athletes showed an upward trend towards their home World Championships with triple Olympic champion Felix Loch and freshly crowned European champion Max Langenhan and recently presented themselves in top form. "I'm glad that Max is back and that I don't have to hold up the flag alone in front now. We are preparing for the World Championships together and are really looking forward to racing in front of our home crowd in Oberhof," said the 33-year-old from Bavaria. He is also currently the most successful luge men at World Championships with six gold and three silver medals. In the eternal best list, only leader Armin Zoeggeler is ahead of Loch. He has also won a bronze medal at World Championships. So Loch could tie with bronze and even make history with silver or gold and take over the lead in the eternal World Championship best list.
The team of the Austrian Luge Federation has had a great start into the season. At the opening event in Innsbruck, Nico Gleirscher, Wolfgang Kindl, Jonas Müller and David Gleirscher shocked the competition with a quadruple victory. Then in the two World Cups raced in 2023, no one from the strong men's team made it onto the podium. However, Nico Gleirscher impressed with a half-time lead and fourth place at the end in Sigulda. With a total of two World Cup victories, four silver medals and two bronze medals, the red-white-red men's team leads the medal table despite a pitch-black World Cup weekend in Sigulda. With four medal candidates in one team and among them former World Champion Wolfgang Kindl, no one else can come up with.
For Italy, the two victories and three third places so far in the World Cup have been won by the bronze medalist of Beijing 2022, Dominik Fischnaller alone. All hopes of the South Tyrolean fans therefore rest on him. His cousin Kevin Fischnaller has been taking a break for the whole season due to injury. "Kevin has a lot of aches and pains. Sometimes it's the meniscus, sometimes the neck or back. We will probably not see him again this season, unfortunately. But we are currently showing an upward form with Dominik and Leon Felderer, which is very positive. The goal is definitely to race for the medals," says record world champion and technical director of the Azzurri Armin Zoeggeler.
Preview ladies: Four times Germany against Egle and Vitola
Three local heroes as well as the European champion and newly crowned German champion lead the circle of favorites for the 2023 World Luge Championships in Oberhof. Statistically, Julia Taubitz is the favorite. With one gold and two silver medals at luge World Championships in the individual, she leads the World Cup best list of active athletes. Of course, Tatjana Huefner, the record holder, has five World Championship titles to her credit and Natalie Geisenberger, the record Olympic champion, has four. But the two exceptional luge athletes from Germany are no longer at the start. Natalie Geisenberger has had her second child. Dajana Eitberger, who learned to luge in Oberhof, has been convincing so far with a World Championship bronze medal and most recently two World Cup victories and the European Championship runner-up title. "I was able to build on my old form this winter. At the moment I feel good athletically and in terms of driving dynamics. I'm enjoying every run and I want to finish my last individual race there in the best possible way. I'm looking forward to what's to come." The 32-year-old native of Ilmenau has announced her move to women's doubles.
The 19-year-old Merle Fräbel already convinced in the internal World Cup qualification on her home track in Oberhof with two victories, then stood on the World Cup podium for the first time in Whistler and most recently missed it only narrowly in Sigulda with fourth place. The German champion from Oberhof and European champion Anna Berreiter is also in optimal shape for the home World Championships: "I love Oberhof again. The preparation for the season didn't go so well. I hope the track is good, my feeling is good for the World Championships."
Tyrolean Madeleine Egle won last year's World Cup in Oberhof and has also won the first three EBERSPÄCHER World Cups of the current season. The 24-year-old has eight World Cup victories to her name and usually impresses with the fastest start times and a lot of speed on the ice track. If she can show two consistent runs at the World Cup in Thuringia, the World Cup title will only go through Egle.
The two Latvians Elina Ieva Vitola and Kendija Aparjode also expect medal chances. Aparjode already stood on the podium at the World Cup in Oberhof two years ago and her teammate raced on the podium in the last two races in Sigulda and took bronze at the European Championships. "I hope that I can also race for the medals in Oberhof. That is my goal for the World Championships," Vitola says confidently.
Preview doubles: Newcomer, high-flyer or stunt flyer
Wendl/Arlt and Eggert/Benecken favorites in the men's event
With four times gold and three times silver, local heroes Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken lead the World Cup rankings as the most successful luge duo ahead of their home World Championships. Artistic luger Toni Eggert, together with his Thuringian doubles partner Sascha Benecken, had also won last year's home World Cup in Oberhof, relegating the Bavarian Express with Wendl/Arlt in Oberhof to second place. After all, three times gold, three times silver and once bronze at World Championships can be credited to the three-time Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt. Most recently, the two high-flyers won their fourth European title at the European Championships in Latvia.
Newcomers Martins Bots and Roberts Plume were able to leave the Olympic champions behind them at the fourth World Cup of the season in Sigulda and had sledged to silver place at the European Championships just behind the high-flyers from Bavaria. "The teams from Germany and Austria were able to go home again for a few days before the training in Oberhof. Unfortunately, we didn't have a break anymore and went directly to Oberhof. It would be a dream for us to win a World Cup medal. But if Wendl and Arlt tell us their secrets for Oberhof, then it should work out with a medal for the World Championships," says Roberts Plume with a mischievous grin on his face.
In any case, the Austrian duos should also be on the list of favorites for the World Championships. Juri Gatt and Riccardo Schöpf have already made it to the World Cup podium four times this winter and won the opening event in Innsbruck for the first time in their career. Thomas Steu and Lorenz Koller have only been on the podium once, at the EBERSPÄCHER World Cup at home in Innsbruck. However, the duo from Vorarlberg and Tyrol has already won a World Cup medal (bronze in Winterberg 2019). Austria's head coach Christian Eigentler is ready for battle: "After our performance at the last two World Cups in Latvia, where we remained without medals, our team is definitely out to make amends. We will continue to work hard accordingly and will fully attack!"
Degenhardt/Rosenthal want to defend title
Austria's red-white-red team is also a hot favourite in the women's doubles. Selina Egle and Lara Kipp have already been on the podium four times in the 2022/23 EBERSPÄCHER World Cup, three of them right at the top on the gold medal spot. At the most recent European Championships in Latvia, the two young Tyrolean women were one hundredth of a second off the podium. Jessica Degenhardt and Cheyenne Rosenthal took the podium. They made history in 2022: The 20-year-old from Saxony and the 22-year-old from North Rhine-Westphalia entered the history books in January 2022 as the first women's doubles world champions. In the VELTINS EisArena in Winterberg, the German duo from Winterberg and Altenberg won the first World Championship title in this still young discipline on Sunday, January 30, 2022. On the way to gender equality, the first World Championship in women's doubles took place in 2022. A few months later, the IOC Executive Board then included this new discipline in the Olympic program for Milan-Cortina 2026.
The established German women's doubles team wants to defend the World Cup title: "We want to show a great race with two consistent runs to the World Cup. Oberhof is a very nice track. Defending the title would be the goal. We haven't had a victory yet this season but we are looking forward to attacking at the World Championships", Jessica Dengenhardt is confident. The two Latvians Anda Upite and Sanija Ozolina must also be taken into account. They were on the podium three times in three World Cup starts, won silver at the European Championships, lugged to their first World Cup victory on their home track in Sigulda one week earlier and secured the bronze medal at the opening event in Innsbruck.
Three commanding World Cup victories have been claimed so far by Italy's Andrea Vötter and Marion Oberhofer. "We are looking forward to the World Cup. In Oberhof we already had a training week in autumn and could also do some runs in the doubles. After all, I am competing in both disciplines, singles and doubles, where I think I have a better chance of winning a World Cup medal," said Andrea Vötter and her coach added: "We are showing an upward form at the moment, which is very positive. We are doing quite well with our doubles, both in the women's and men's singles. We are just missing the final touches. We have to adapt well to the weather and conditions in the short term. The track in Oberhof is good and we will surely have fair conditions. Then we should see exciting races with many spectators and a good atmosphere at the World Championships", said the Technical Director of the Italian Luge National Team Armin Zoeggeler.
Overview statistics: https://www.fil-luge.org/en/statistics