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  • Tuesday Talk-- Luge Leader on World Champs, Team Relay, Race for 2018


    Luge president Josef Fendt. (FIL)

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    (ATR) International Luge Federation president Josef Fendt tells Around the Rings his sport is long overdue for an additional Olympic event.

    The longtime luge leader’s passion for the mixed team relay is clear, but it’s Jacques Rogge’s decision whether to add the event to Sochi 2014.

    The IOC president was at the World Cup final last month in Latvia to form his opinion ahead of next month’s Executive Board meeting in London, where he’s expected to reveal which of 10 events will join the Winter Olympic program.

    ATR caught up with Fendt as the luge season came to a close to assess his thoughts on the team relay’s chances for Sochi as well as preparations for Innsbruck 2012 and bidding for 2018.

    Around the Rings: Tell me about last month’s world championships. How did they go?

    Josef Fendt: The world championships took place on our Olympic track of Torino 2006. So this is also a sign that we are using our tracks after the Olympics as well. The post-Olympic use is important for us too.

    We had excellent competitions. Also good participation numbers. We had different nations on the podium. For example, the world champions come from three different countries. Also, we saw nations on the podium that are not seen there very often. For example, Latvia won a bronze medal in doubles. Or for example, Alex Gough from Canada, who won a bronze medal in women’s single.
    IOC president Jacques Rogge (earmuffs) joined FIL president Josef Fendt (black hat) in Latvia to watch the team relay event. (FIL)

    ATR: Luge has its mixed team relay up for addition to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. How did the event go in Sigulda when IOC president Jacques Rogge was on-hand to observe?

    JF: It was a very good fact for us that the competition went really well in Sigulda. No technical problems whatsoever – everything worked out well. We had exciting competitions.

    Also, the results of the team competition were very good because everybody said that usually Germany wins and this was not the case. Instead, Russia won, and the team was very enthusiastic and they showed a lot of emotion and this was really great for us.

    Jacques Rogge watched the entire race, and I do think that he got a very positive impression of this race format. Besides this, we got the best rating of the entire day for our team competition broadcast, which was shown live on German public television.

    ATR: How are preparations coming for the Innsbruck 2012 Youth Winter Olympic Games?

    JF: The preparations are going well. We will have good participation numbers. We are not worried about this because in the past few years, we have had a great number of participants in our junior world cups and also our junior world championships, and we are confident that we will have a great number of participants in the Youth Winter Olympic Games.

    We have supported youth competitions for many years, and I think that we are able to see the results now.

    ATR: What about preparations for Sochi 2014? How are they coming?

    JF: We can maybe put it this way. It’s not going so much the fast lane, but still everything is going OK.

    With regard to the luge track, the first model curve has been built, and in the next few weeks our experts will travel to Sochi and they will inspect it. This will be done in cooperation with the FIBT. We have excellent cooperation with the FIBT, so this will be done together.

    ATR: In terms of the 2018 race, what is your federation looking for in the bids from Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang?
    In the mixed relay, a team consists of one man, one woman and a two-person pair. Each new leg begins when an athlete hits the signaling device at the bottom of the course. (Getty Images)

    JF: We certainly look very carefully at all three bids and we think that all three of them will be capable of hosting good winter Olympic games. The difference for us is that the bids of Munich and Annecy have existing luge tracks in contrast to PyeongChang. They would have to build a new artificial luge and bobsleigh track.

    ATR: SportAccord is coming up in early next month, and this year’s theme is “Why Sport Matters” – in your opinion, why does sport matter?

    JF: I think that sport matters very much because it’s an important component of our society, and I think it is very important for most people all over the world.

    ATR: Why specifically is luge an important part of the Olympic Movement?

    JF: I am the president of the International Luge Federation. Therefore, I am convinced that the sport of luge has every right to be part of the Olympic program, and it’s a great part of the Olympic program. We have a very long tradition in history. In 2014, we will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of luge as an Olympic sport. The sport of luge has much more than 100 years of tradition and history.

    ATR: Anything else on your federation’s radar at the moment?

    JF: For us certainly, it’s a very important issue our endeavors to get the team relay competition into the Olympic program. For us, it would be really great to see the team relay as part of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, so this is one of our most important endeavors right now.

    As I said, we have almost 50 years of Olympic history, and throughout these years we never got an additional discipline in the program in contrast to other sports who grew, so for us it would be a great thing to be successful in this.

    For more of Fendt’s thoughts on the 2018 bids, stay tuned. Around the Rings will feature a series of Q&As with the seven winter Olympic federation chiefs in the months leading up to the July 6 host decision in Durban.

    Written by Matthew Grayson.

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