Home crowd helps Zöggeler retain his title
Armin Zöggeler had not lost his form since his victory in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. He had won the 2003 and 2005 World Championships and won the Olympic test event three months before the Olympics. He was a world-class athlete in world-beating form. He arrived in Turin with sports fans expecting him to take gold.
Not everyone can cope with that level of pressure and expectation. Over the years many great athletes have struggled to find their best form when it seemed victory was theirs for the taking – and the when the prize at stake is an Olympic medal, the pressure is at its greatest.
Zöggeler had one great advantage on his side - the home support behind him was enormous – that that could also have been suffocating.
Of course, Zöggeler would have been the favourite whether the race had been held in Italy or in any other country, such was his form. But he faced strong rivals. Among those challenging him were Georg Hackl, chasing an unlikely sixth consecutive medal in the sport. For Hackl, the dream was not to come true; for Zöggeler, the battle was closer than most people had expected.
As so often at these Games, the final result was in doubt until the very end. Zöggeler had been quickest over the first two runs, holding a lead of 0.16 seconds at the competition's halfway stage, ahead of Russia's Albert Demchenko.
But Demchenko was fastest over the third run, cutting the Italian's lead to just 0.12 seconds. Any error now, and Zöggeler would probably see his chance of victory disappear.
In the end, Zöggeler produced a run that was, by his standards, rather sluggish. He finished only fifth fastest, but it was good enough. Demchenko could knock only a tenth of a second out of his overall lead, and so the home crowd had the champion they wanted. Zöggeler had coped with the pressure to seal his victory. Six million Italians tuned in to watch the final run on television.