Originally created 02/12/02

Hackl fails in bid to win fourth straight gold in men's luge



PARK CITY, Utah -- Georg Hackl of Germany failed in his bid to become the first Winter Olympian to win four straight gold medals in the same event, finishing second to Armin Zoeggeler of Italy in men's luge on Monday.

Still, with his second silver, Hackl became the first winter athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics and smiled at a contingent of fans who were cheering him at the finish line.

Zoeggeler, second to Hackl four years ago at Nagano, finished his four runs in 2 minutes, 57.941 seconds.

Hackl, who had the slowest third run among the top five to fall .232 of a second behind - too far back to accomplish his dream - finished with an aggregate total of 2:58.270.

Markus Prock of Austria, a 10-time World Cup champion, won the bronze in 2:58.283. He went out in style in his fifth and final games, setting a track record of 44.271 seconds on his third run.

No Winter Olympian had ever won the same event four straight times. Carl Lewis (long jump), Al Oerter (discus) and Paul Elvstrom (sailing) accomplished the feat in the Summer Games.

An American hasn't won a medal in singles since luge became an Olympic sport in 1964. Adam Heidt of Northport, N.Y. came close this time, finishing a surprising fourth in 2:58.606, the best singles finish in U.S. team history.

Tony Benshoof of White Bear Lake, Minn., was 17th, finishing in 3:00.102, and Nick Sullivan of Oakdale, Minn. finished 26th in 3:02.093.

The race for gold had become a two-man affair between Hackl and Zoeggeler. The Italian star, a three-time World Cup champion, led by only .041 of a second after Sunday's first two runs. And Hackl had sent a message by setting a track record of 44.494 seconds on his second run.

The Olympics had become Hackl's winter playground over the last 14 years. Since he made his mark in singles at Calgary in 1988 with silver, the beer-swilling, fun-loving soldier from the Bavarian Alps had been unbeatable.

Only Prock had come close. He lost to Hackl at Lillehammer in 1994 by 13 thousandths of a second, the closest finish in Olympic history in the men's competition. Trailing after three runs, Hackl had come back to win that gold on the final heat.

Undaunted by history and a nerve-racking wait of nearly four hours between runs on Monday, Zoeggeler, who edged Hackl for the gold at last year's World Championships in Calgary, went out and accomplished the unthinkable with IOC president Jacques Rogge looking on.

"I had heard there was a possibility of Georg Hackl making history, and I wanted to be a part of it," Rogge said before the final run. "But I know it will be very difficult because he's two-tenths of a second behind."

As it turned out, Rogge was right.