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Germany's bobsleigh team (here in Altenberg) is hoping for medals at the home World Championships in Winterberg

Photo: Andreas Franke / IMAGO

After the successes in the ice track at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the strong World Championships last year in St. Moritz, the German bobsleigh team wants to build on this at the home World Championships in Winterberg. In view of the superiority, the other nations have pushed for rule changes. "The rest of the world against Germany, I can say that very clearly, I stand by that too," said bobsleigh head coach René Spies before the World Cup decisions on Thursday. So the Swiss, the Latvians and the British caught up in terms of materials. It remains to be seen whether the combination of technology, starting performance and driving skills will be enough for the world title.

How is the World Cup going in Winterberg?

Before the bobsleigh championships there are the skeleton world championships. This Thursday and Friday, women and men will determine their world champions in four runners each. The decisions in the women's monobob and the men's two-man bobsleigh will follow on Saturday and Sunday. After a break, the weekend continues with the decisions in the women's two-man bobsleigh and the men's four-man bobsleigh.

The course in Winterberg is also called the starter track. Why?

With a competition length of 1,330 meters, the 15-curve ice labyrinth at the cap in Hochsauerland is a so-called starter track, as the top sprinters have a slight advantage at the start. Due to the relatively short and easy route, driving errors are harder to make up for than on the 1,722 meter long natural ice track in St. Moritz with 19 curves. In the previous season, the first three four-man bobsleighs were only two tenths of a second apart.

How great is the risk of falling in Winterberg?

Falls occur in all ice canals in the world, and they cannot be prevented. They happen due to driving errors, due to a lack of training for inexperienced pilots or due to new, supposedly faster lines that pilots choose in order to gain valuable hundredths of a second. Winterberg is one of the easier tracks in the World Cup circus, but there is a risk of tipping over, especially in curve sections 11/12 and in the finish curve. “There has never been and never will be 100% safety,” said Altenberg’s track boss Jens Morgenstern and added: “We do racing where there have been serious or fatal crashes in the past. Everyone who plays the sport knows that.”

How big is the home advantage?

As in Königssee or Altenberg, it is difficult to explain away. Because the Germans have more training runs, more test races to develop material. The German championships were also held in Winterberg in mid-November.

What changes has the world association decided on?

To put it simply, the bobsleigh consists of steel with the runners attached and a hood, usually made of carbon, explained German head coach Spies. The connection points between the hood and frame are important. »It's about driving dynamics, about damping so that you have a lot of ice contact with the runner. And there were rule restrictions where we have worked a lot in the last few years." Therefore, we now have to find new solutions together with the technicians from the Institute for Research and Development of Sports Equipment (FES) in order to continue the series of successes at the 2026 Winter Olympics . Because the Swiss and also the host Italians with German coach Manuel Machata are investing enormously in material for the Olympics.

What will be the most exciting World Cup race?

The premier class of four-man bobsleigh remains the highlight. Briton Brad Hall is back after a break after beating Francesco Friedrich on his home track last winter and finishing a narrow second in Winterberg. In addition, the Latvian Emils Cipulis and his Wallner bob were at the World Cup dress rehearsal in Saxony at the same time as the winner Friedrich.

In the two-man bobsleigh, the Swiss co-favorite Michael Vogt, who fell badly and came second in the World Cup last year behind Johannes Lochner, will be missing. Defending champion Lochner is starting in Altenberg after his fall. The two long-term rivals Friedrich and Lochner will also have to watch out for the newly crowned European champion Adam Ammour. The former gymnast is off to a strong start and recently defeated Friedrich on his home track and in Sigulda. "Franz is not at a loss, but a solution-oriented guy who knows exactly which construction sites he has to work on," said Spies, who thinks the open situation is great: "It's great when everyone fights it out at the top level."