Kraushaar wins battle of the Germans in women’s luge

Picture by Getty

The women's luge in Nagano developed into an absorbing battle between two German soldiers, Silke Kraushaar and Barbara Niederhuber. After four runs, the two compatriots were separated by just 0.002 seconds, the equivalent of less than the length of your little finger.

Kraushaar had started her career competing for East Germany, but reunification had disrupted her sporting progress and she only started competing again in 1995. Within a couple of years, she was impressing in the World Cup and arrived in Nagano in good form.

Indeed, Germany had extraordinary depth in women's luge, to the extent that. Sylke Otto and Jana Bode, two of the world’s best lugers, couldn’t make the team.

Kraushaar and Niederhuber dominated the event from the start. Kraushaar was the faster over the first run by just 0.019 seconds. The rest of the field trailed at least 0.2 seconds behind, and already it was clear that they were chasing bronze.

Niederhuber took the overnight lead following the second run, but most of that advantage was snatched back by Kraushaar on the third descent. The gap was now just 0.006 seconds – a wafer-thin advantage.

In her final run, Kraushaar set a time of 50.617 seconds and then sat back to see what Niederhuber could do. When she crossed the line, the leader saw that she was 0.008 seconds slower, handing the gold medal to her German rival by a mere two thousandths of a second. Austria's Angelika Neuner, who came third, was nearly half a second further back.

Kraushaar went on to take a bronze (behind Otto and Niederhuber) four years later in Salt Lake City and then added a silver medal in Turin in 2006.