Nina Zoeggeler not feeling family legacy pressure ahead of Winter Olympics debut
The Italian luge athlete tells Olympics.com the advice she received from her father, double Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler, ahead of Beijing 2022.
Her father Armin Zoeggeler is one of the greatest male sliders of all time with two Olympic gold medals six world titles to his name.
As such, his retirement from the sport after the Sochi 2014 Olympics left a huge void in Italian luge and they have not had a champion since.
But that could all be about to change, with his daughter Nina now following in her father’s footsteps.
The 20-year-old's unbeatable luge DNA, coupled to the knowledge and experience she is benefiting from with Armin as her coach, could lead to another Zoeggeler Olympic medal yet.
Olympics.com sat down with Nina Zoeggeler to find out how she handles the pressure of her name, how her personality compares to her father’s, and the advice he has given her ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Olympic Channel: You have a very famous surname in luge. Does being Armin Zoeggeler’s daughter put you under extra pressure, as people expect you to be a potential Olympic champion?
Nina Zoeggeler: Yes, a little bit, but over the years I have learned a lot and so it's not a problem for me now.
OC: What sort of things have you learnt in terms of dealing with that expectation?
NZ: I do feel a little bit of pressure. But my father makes me feel comfortable and so also the family is then behind me. So the extra pressure is not the problem for me as I am young and I am not expected to be a champion just yet.
OC: Did you always want to follow in your father’s footsteps and compete in luge?
NZ: No! My father did not push me to do luge. He always just encouraged me to do what I want to do.
I was first in athletics, but I liked the winter sports more. The first time I tried luge was when I was seven years old. It was just fun with the family for me at first, but then I changed high school and decided that I wanted to be a professional luger when I was 13 or 14.
OC: In what way was your father like a superhero to you growing up, as he flew round the track at 150 km/h and won two Olympic gold medals?
NZ: I must say that I didn't see him as an Olympic champion. I saw him like a father who supports his daughter. He's always by my side and it's great. When we travel, that’s when he becomes my hero because when I have problems on the track or in my private life, he is always there for me to speak to. We don’t actually talk about luge that much in our private lives.
OC: What are the main drawbacks about having your father as your coach?
NZ: Every time I slide well we are good, but when it doesn’t go so well it’s bad and we clash!
OC: Is he stricter with you than other athletes because you're his daughter?
NZ: Sometimes yes, but also because he wants me to do my best.
OC: In what ways are you similar and different to your father in terms of personality?
NZ: I’m very similar to him in that when I want something When I say I want something, I totally focus on it and I'm really strict. I must say that I have the exactly the same character as him. However, sometimes I act before thinking things through, while he is more methodical. So you could say that in the heat of the moment, I act more on my emotions.
OC: What advice has he given you ahead of your first Winter Olympics at Beijing 2022?
NZ: He said to me that I should just enjoy it. I am young, so these Olympics are just for the experience and to enjoy them. I don't have this pressure on me to win. I will do my best in Beijing.
OC: What are your thoughts on the brand-new track in Yanqing, having competed in the World Cup there before a two-week training camp last month?
NZ: It is a track that we have never seen before. So yeah, it was a little bit strange but after a few runs you learn how to drive there. I like the track and it was great to be there.
OC: The track also features the world’s first 360-degree Kreisel turn. What did that feel like?
NZ: It’s a great feeling the slide there! The turn is really long, but it's great to drive like that.
OC: Two of the favorites to win Olympic gold in Beijing are German’s Julia Taubitz and Natalie Geisenberger. Why are the German sliders so dominant?
NZ: That's a great question. I think their team is really strong through their years of experience. But don’t forget the Austrians who are also very strong, and also the Russians. We are all friends. They are all really fast, so we will see who sets the best times.
OC: When your father was competing, Italy was at the top of luge. How much of a motivation is it for you to take Italy back to the top?
NZ: Yes, it’s something the whole team want because we know that we have fallen behind some of the other nations. We have been improving gradually, but other nations have made huge strides forward and overtaken us. I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we want to get Italy back to the top.