Luger Geisenberger loaded with Olympic expectation

NATALIE Geisenberger knows exactly what she has to do at next month's Winter Olympics in Vancouver: win a medal in the women's luge.

"No-one would believe me if I said I was going to come in fourth," says the 21-year-old German. "The expectations are very high, no doubt about that."

Lugers have won more gold medals for Germany at Winter Games than any other group of athletes, despite not being able to compete in as many events as for example speedskaters, who could win five or six medals if they compete in the various distances.

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The Munich-born Geisenberger, who won her second World Cup race of the season last week on home soil and her fifth overall, said the strong competition within the German team was crucial for her motivation.

"We have this enormous competition, the feeling that you cannot fail in any race," the trainee police officer said by telephone from her training base in Oberhof. "Other countries have maybe one athlete and essentially they are given everything on a silver platter.

"For us the competition starts in the juniors and goes all the way up," she added. "It also lasts the whole year, not just the winter. Some very good athletes from our country, who would have easily qualified for other countries, do not make the cut."

Geisenberger, who won the team world title in 2009 and was a runner-up in the individual title in 2008 and 2009, said her sporting rivalry with team mate Tatjana Huefner, who tops the World Cup standings this season, was limited to the track.

"The atmosphere in the team is very good. Everyone understands that it is the fastest athlete who wins and not the most annoying athlete so we have a great time, in the evenings we all do something together."

Geisenberger is excited about racing on the Whistler track despite crashing there last autumn and damaging her ankle ligaments. "I like this track. It is brutally fast and technically very demanding. Crashes like mine are part of the programme when you are going down such a fast track," she said.

"But it motivated me because I said 'this cannot happen, not now'. So you just fight to come back."

She still feels the effects on her ankle especially during sprint training but the thirst for an Olympic medal at the first attempt is too big.

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"Maybe I am not 100 per cent but that is what it is," she said. "Everyone wants a medal for themselves so you just go out there and fight for it."