Two in a row
Italian claims second straight World Cup luge crown
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Italy's Armin Zoeggeler wrapped up his second consecutive World Cup luge title Saturday with a record-setting performance at the Utah Olympic Park track that will be used for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Although there's one race left this season before the World Championships, mathematically no one can surpass Zoeggelers point total.
Later Saturday, Germany's Silke Kraushaar set a track record in the first run of the women's race, covering the course in 43.291 seconds. Kraushaar was more than a second faster than the USA's Nicole Oliveira finished a year ago.
Also Saturday, Germany's Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch broke the double's record by finishing at 43.138, or seven-tenths of a second faster than American's Pat Anderson and Brian Wohleb a year ago.
The Park City competitions, being televised by EuroSport, will hold their second and final run Sunday morning. Then the athletes depart for Lake Placid, N.Y., and the final race of the World Cup tour Feb. 17-18.
The men's victory by Zoeggeler was ominous, as no luger since 1964 has won a test event on the track to be used for a Winter Games and gone on to win an Olympic gold medal on the same track.
"It's for sure an omen, but I'm sure you can break it," said Zoeggeler, the silver medalist at the 1998 Nagano Games and the bronze medalist at Lillehammer in 1994.
In winning Saturday's race in 1 minute, 29.391 seconds before an announced crowd of 773 and several moose on a mountainside overlooking the track, the Italian covered the 17-turn, 1316-meter track in a record 44.590 on his first run, and came back with a 44.801-second run.
Second place went to Austria's Markus Prock, who finished in a combined 1:29.557, while third went to Frances Johan Rousseau (1:29.798), who made his first career podium appearance.
Coming into the race American Tony Benshoof, who tied his career-best finish with fourth, held the track record, having covered the course in 45.595 seconds in January 2000 when he won the U.S. national championship.
But that time was battered from the start Saturday. Benshoof, the first athlete on the course, immediately trimmed the record to 44.828, but by days end it belonged to Zoeggeler.
"I wasn't very far off of a medal at all," said Benshoof. "I've got a long way to go before the Olympics and hopefully everything will continue improving."
Zoeggeler, who had won three of the seasons six previous World Cup races, was happier with claiming the overall title than winning the race.
"It means a lot to me that I won the overall World Cup because it means I'm consistently running good races," he said.