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Luge & Skeleton Monday, 11 February, 2002, 04:17 GMT
Zoeggeler halts Hackl charge
Italian Armin Zoeggeler led the way after day one of the luge
Armin Zoeggeler led after the luge's opening day
German luge legend Georg Hackl tipped rival Armin Zoeggeler to win Olympic gold after the Italian took the lead at the event's halfway mark.

Three-time world champion Armin Zoeggeler finished 0.041 seconds ahead of Hackl, who will bid to make history with his final two runs.

Zoeggeler won bronze at Lillehammer in 1994 and silver at Nagano four years later.

Georg Hackl had to settle for second place on day one
Hackl faces a fight for the gold medal

Hackl is trying to become the first Winter Games athlete to win four consecutive gold medals in the same individual event.

Britain's Mark Hatton finished in 25th place out of the 49 competitors after the opening two runs.

Hackl set a new track record of 44.494 secs in his second run, but he was still trailing Zoeggeler's combined time of 1:29.067.

Austrian veteran Markus Prock was third at the halfway stage.

"I'm very satisfied with my second run, but not with my starting - it is a mental problem that I need to overcome. Hopefully I can do better on my third run," said Hackl.

The key is to be constant - every little thing can cost you the race

Zoeggeler sounds a note of caution

The German is known as the "professor" or the "dead man" among his fellow competitors - for his tendency to tinker with his sled and his sliding style.

But he believes the halfway leader can go on to claim gold.

"I have proven that I can beat Armin Zoeggeler, but in my eyes he's the number one luger in the world for the past two years. This track suits his style perfectly," admitted Hackl.

Zoeggeler was delighted with his performance on the quick 1,136 metre-long track at Utah Olympic Park.

"I was faster than Hackl on the first run. Those two runs are definitely the best I've done here. I had a great feeling and took great lines down."

Adam Heidt of the United States finished in fourth position ahead of Germany's Karsten Albert.

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