YANQING (REUTERS) - Johannes Ludwig sped to gold in the luge men's singles, restoring Germany's Olympic primacy in the sport, after a blistering series of runs that twice broke the track record at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.
After setting the pace in the first two rounds on Saturday, Ludwig's third run on Sunday (Feb 6) set a record of 57.043 seconds, giving him a time of 3:48.735 overall.
"I have a lot of years in the sport behind me, and I had a lot of not-so successful years - 2010, 2014, I didn't qualify for the Olympics, I had a lot of fourth places in world championships," Ludwig said.
"I continued luging and I'm happy that I did this, and I think this medal is a sign I did the right thing." Austria's Wolfgang Kindl was 0.160 seconds behind to claim silver, while Italy's Dominik Fischnaller took bronze, 0.951 seconds off the pace on the serpentine track in the hills north of Beijing.
"I'm very happy with what I've achieved I worked flat out all the way to the end,", said Kindl.
"But at the end of the day, Ludwig was really the strongest guy across the entire season and it's well deserved that he won." World Cup champion Ludwig, 35, took bronze at the Pyeongchang Olympics four years ago in an event where Germany have dominated.
Austria's David Gleirscher, who took the Olympic gold from the Germans in Pyeongchang, finished only 15th on Sunday, while American Chris Mazdzer, the silver medallist last time, was the United States' strongest competitor in eighth.
Ludwig's compatriot Felix Loch, who took gold in Vancouver and Sochi, had been seeking a return to form after a disastrous fourth-round mistake derailed his medal hopes in Pyeongchang.
But the 32-year-old fell just short of the medal positions in fourth place.
Kindl's silver medal breaks his curse of nines, having finished in that position in the last three Olympics going back to Vancouver in 2010. He too has been strong World Cup form, finishing second to Ludwig in the 20/21 competition.
Bronze medallist Fischnaller had been set to compete for the medals against his cousin Kevin, had the latter's Olympics not been brought to a premature end by testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday.
"We Facetime called a lot, also today, because I needed some hours passed," Fischnaller said.
"He doesn't know what to do, so it was good to talk to him.
Obviously I'm missing him a lot at the moment. This medal is also for him."
Fischnaller picks up Italy's first medal in the men's singles since the legendary Armin Zöggeler ratcheted up his sixth medal in six consecutive games at Sochi in 2014.
Latvia also had a strong showing in the event, with Kristers Aparjods and Gints Berzins placing fifth and seventh respectively. In December Aparjods became the first Latvian to win a men's World Cup race in the sport.