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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 11:09 GMT
Legend of the luge
Georg Hackl is on the verge of becoming an Olympic legend.
The luge is not the most popular of sports and, as a result, Hackl is not as famous as many great Olympians.
But what he does share with the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave and Mark Spitz is a devotion to his sport.
It is said that when the German cannot sleep at night he polishes the runners on his luge.
Others talk in wonder at how, after being introduced to the sport at the age of 11, he would spend his time after school practicing on his home track at Koenigssee in Bavaria.
And as a 16-year-old Hackl learnt to build his own sleds.
Ever since he has always used his own sleds which he constantly alters to suit the specifications of various runs.
His devotion paid off in 1992 when he won a first gold medal having come second four years earlier.
Since winning in Albertville, Hackl has defended his title in both Lillehammer and Nagano.
His first success was a testament to his meticulous nature, concentration and sheer determination.
Hackl lost in Calgary to East Germany's Jens Muller after experiencing trouble with his starts.
On his return to Koenigssee he built a start range and set about correcting the fault that had blighted his chances.
Hackl reaped the rewards for his foresight and punishing practice regime when he finally captured gold in Albertville.
Although his perfect preparation was almost undone when he had trouble with the set up of a new sled during his training runs ahead of competition.
Undeterred, Hackl opted to use one of his older sleds and proceeded to set the fastest speed in Olympic luging history clocking an average of 99.54km/h over the 1,250 metre run.
If 1992 was a victory founded on the back of Hackl's perserverance, the defence of his title was testament to his consistency.
At Albertville he had seen off the challenge of Austria's Markus Prock in the closest men's singles competition in 24 years.
In Lillehammer even less time separated the two, and if all four runs had been run as a single race, Hackl would have won the three-and-a-half miles by less than 14 inches.
Back surgery in 1996 seemed to spell the end of his career as his start times slowed.
But again Hackl went back to the drawing board and back to the Koenigssee run.
Following in depth analysis of his style, he learnt to make up time by maintaining greater control of the sled over the course of his runs.
Whereas 1994 had been an epic duel, Hackl dominated Nagano in 1998 where he won by more than half-a-second and became the first man to record the best time in all four runs at the Olympics.
Now he is aiming to make history and become the first man to win four individual golds in four successive Winter games.
In the past Hackl has been able to call on his devotion, tenacity, consistency and ability to rise to the big occasion.
At Salt Lake City, on the biggest occasion of them all, the 35-year-old will also have to call on all his experience if he is to achieve his dream.
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