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OLYMPIC REVIEW71 VENUEFORMGUIDE STAR INTERVIEW Nestled in the scenic Fitzsimmons Valley on the southeast slope of Blackcomb Mountain, the Whistler Sliding Centre will host the luge, bobsleigh and skeleton competitions at Vancouver. With a capacity for 12,000 spectators, the luge competition should provide spectacular viewing. Held on a 1,450m track, the elevation of the start line for the men is at 939m, and the finish at 787m, meaning the vertical drop over the course is some 152m. In building the Whistler Sliding Centre, organisers have kept in mind effects on the environment: the track has been painted white to minimise heat absorption, and trees, where possible, have been retained to help cast shade. Located in an area with many adventure-oriented activities, after the Games the Sliding Centre will operate as a centre for high- performance development, youth and recreational club programming. With an unbeaten record in World Cup competition that goes back to 1997, there is no doubting Germany's dominance in women's luge. Their three competitors, and therefore the favourites for the gold in Vancouver, will be Tatjana Huefner, Natalie Geisenberger and Anke Wischnewski. Other possible medal contenders, such as Natalia Yakushenko of Ukraine and Austrian Nina Reithmayer, will be pulling out all the stops to prevent a third German sweep of the podium in Vancouver. At her Olympic debut at Turin in 2006 Huefner won the bronze medal as the German women swept the podium for the second time in a row. Two years later she improved on her runners- up place in the 2007 World Cup to win the series' prestigious trophy in 2008, when she was also crowned world champion. As the build- up to Vancouver gathers pace, Huefner is giving no quarter to her rivals. On 11 January she claimed her fourth World Cup victory this season, after just five races, to reinforce her overall lead. In the men's competition there is less uncertainty over who has gold medal favourite status. Two- time Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler has been on fire this season, claiming his third World Cup victory in a row and 43rd of his career ( as of 11 Jan) to reinforce his overall lead. And the big and powerful part- time police officer from the mountainous Haut Adige region, is showing no signs of slowing down. A seven- time world champion, Zoeggeler, 35, has won the World Cup crown seven times in his career. Often trailing Germany's three- time Olympic champion Georg Hackl and Austrian Markus Prock early in his career, an emerging Zoeggeler finished third, then second behind Hackl at the 1994 and 1998 Games respectively before finally unearthing gold at Salt Lake City in 2002. In Turin he defended his title with aplomb. But in a little less than a year's time, the emergence of a strong German contingent, which includes David Moeller and Felix Loch, could present Zoeggeler with a fresh Olympic challenge. SPORTS PROFILES LeftDavid Moeller will be one of the main rivals to favourite Armin Zoeggeler BelowGermany will try to sweep the medals again in the women's event

72OLYMPIC REVIEW ARMIN ZOEGGELER TWO TIME OLYMPIC LUGE CHAMPION TATJANA HUEFNER OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALLIST IN TURIN With the Olympic Games one year away, how do you feel – physically and mentally – about your chances of a third gold medal? Who will be your biggest rivals? Thankfully, I'm in good form and I'm still really enjoying competing in luge. The Olympic Games is one of my goals, and it is only 11 months away. That said, I wouldn't want to pick out a particular rival; I have respect for all of the other lugers. You have to respect every one. If you were to write off someone, and forget about the rest of the competition, then it would be very difficult. Have you already raced on the Vancouver luge track? If so, what are your impressions? It's certainly a very difficult track, and very, very fast. I would even say it might be the fastest track in the world. We've already got up to 149km/ h on it. And it probably won't stop there. Surely we'll hit faster speeds once we get our racesuits on and really get going on it. You have raced for over 20 years and won almost everything there is to win in luge. What is the principle motivation for you to continue? I'll keep lugeing as long as I'm enjoying it. You are having another great season in the World Cup. Is it too early to be thinking about Vancouver? Right now, I'm taking it a step at a time because I want to focus fully on each race. This year my big goal is the World Championships in Lake Placid. Before the Olympic Games there is a long summer and a lot of work ahead of me. After this season I'll start considering what needs to be worked on because I wouldn't be serious if I wasn't thinking about Vancouver. But for me it's still a long way away. After your bronze medal win in 2006, and world titles in 2007 and 2008, you must be aiming for gold. How do you feel you have improved since Turin? I think I've become more stable in my runs, although I still have room for improvement. My starts and my position on the luge have improved. But even then I think I'm far from my full potential. Who will be your biggest rivals in Vancouver? Just getting past the German competition is hard enough. From an early age we have been used to competing against each other, and at a high level. But I can't underestimate the local challenge from Canada, and I can't ignore the Austrians, Americans or Ukrainians either. BelowHuefner and Zoeggeler will be aiming for gold in Vancouver SPORTS PROFILES