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Luge & Skeleton Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 15:25 GMT
GB luger set for Games
Mark Hatton has been selected after good performances
Hatton has been selected after good performances
Mark Hatton will lead Britain's challenge on the luge at the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City.

In the process,the 28-year-old will become Britain's first representative in the sport since 1994.

Paul Dix came 26th at the Lillehammer Olympics, and Hatton is aiming for a top-25 finish.

Having qualified for his second Olympics, Hatton has raced free of inhibition in the World Cup and was rewarded with 23rd place in the fourth race of the season.

Hatton not only leads the British challenge - he is the challenge.

The Cambridge graduate took to the sport seven years ago.

It has become his abiding passion.

Georg Hackl in action
Hatton believes that Georg Hackl is the man to beat

"I do it because there's no feeling like it. It's the greatest sport I've ever done," the former semi-professional rugby player said.

"You're two inches from the ice, close to or above 90mph.

"It's not so much fear as you being aware of your own mortality.

"You know if you don't concentrate, you could be in trouble. It channels the mind."

The luge is considered one of the more dangerous Olympic disciplines and as a result was only belatedly added to the Winter Games programme in 1964.

Two weeks before its introduction, a British luger died on the Olympic course.

The event is also one of the fastest.

No other Olympic sport is measured in thousandths of a second.

"I've tied with another racer to the same thousandth of a second before over a two-mile course," said Hatton, who works in a bank during the summer.

"But on the second run I easily beat him by a few thousandths."

In order to ensure he enjoys that sort of cushion again, Hatton has undertaken an intensive programme of practising his starts.

But beggars cannot be choosers and the schedule was forced upon him as a result of their being no luge runs in Britain.

There is so little time separating people in this sport - but he stands out

Hatton on Hackl

While some of his competitors are repeatedly hurling themselves off the top of runs in order to refine their technique, the Briton was at Swindon ice rink.

"The local blacksmith made us some start handles which we put on the side of the rink which we practice," he said.

"Unfortunately our push-offs are the only thing we can practice.

The quality of Hatton's build-up has increased over the winter.

Eight months on the World Cup circuit and at the British Olympic Association's facility in Calagary mean he arrives in Salt Lake City in peak condition.

Although he will reap the rewards for his single-minded approach, he is realistic enough to appreciate that the podium is out of reach.

At a push, the top-15 is the ultimate goal.

Links to more Luge & Skeleton stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more Luge & Skeleton stories

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