Germany’s four-time Olympic champs Tobias Arlt/Tobias Wendl: How we push each other to new heights

The doubles kings and best friends credit "knowing when to leave the other one alone" as part of their success. Find out more about The Tobys in this exclusive interview. 

By Andrew Binner and Sven Busch
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

There is nothing quite like chemistry for luge doubles kings Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl, also known as, “The Tobys.”

At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the German pair roared to victory in the doubles before teaming up with Natalie Geisenberger and Felix Loch to land the relay title.

Not content with their two Olympic gold medals, Arlt and Wendl defended their doubles title at PyeongChang 2018. In doing so, they also became the first German team to win two straight doubles golds since Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn in 1976 and 1980.

Buoyed by that success, the Tobys went on to defend their mixed relay title in Korea, with Johannes Ludwig taking Loch’s place.

Over a 21-year career together, the Bavarian luge legends, now both 34, have also claimed six world titles as a pair, coupled to a further three mixed team titles. So what is the secret to their success?

“A mixture of being best friends and knowing when to leave the other one alone and give him some space,” Wendl told Olympics.com ahead of their second-consecutive title defense at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. “This is absolutely vital. If you are being too uptight about it, if you think everything has to be done in sync, it is going to backfire."

Competing literally on top of one another, combined with spending so much time together during the season at training, unsurprisingly results in disagreements. But the pair are yet to have a full-blown argument, as they recognise when it’s time for solitude.

“We never end up having a massive fight as we know when to let go ahead of time and give the other one some breathing room,” Wendl continued.

Arlt concurred, adding that a trick to getting to know each other is to spend time together away from luge.

“We know exactly how the other one ticks,” he said while sitting next to his teammate on video call. “You have to give each other space. In winter we spend more time together than with our wives, you have to be best friends and gel. We practise other sports together as well, like going skiing or mountain biking and it is super important that you get along without problems.”

Tobias Artl and Tobias Wendl: Happy to be underdogs

The Tobys’ experience will be vital in helping them retain their titles once again, in what has been a less-than-ideal preparation for the Winter Olympics this February.

A false positive COVID test for Artl meant that they lost some vital practice time. Coupled to their equipment problems and subsequent inconsistent form in the 2021-22 World Cup, the reigning Olympic champions would appear to be on the back foot.

But they have experience being in this position, and have come out on the other side shining.

Heading into the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, they were the clear underdogs to gold-medal favourites, and compatriots, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.

But Arlt and Wendl saved their best performance of the season for the Games, and a course record saw them overcome the other German team.

“Like at all the other Games before, we need to focus solely on us and try to block out all the rest. That is the most important thing. Whoever masters that the best, will definitely leave Beijing as a winner.” - Tobias Arlt to Olympics.com

“We know how the Games work,” Wendl concurred. “We know how it is before the Games, after the Games, we know how it is when you win but it is still a challenge to manage your timing in a way that you will be able to put in your best performance on one specific day, to deliver on one day what you have been building up for four years. That is our challenge, to be perfect on that day. And if we manage that, then we will be happy, no matter if we finish second, third or fourth. Of course the result does matter but we want to be at our best.”

With a sense of deja vu, Eggert and Benecken have once again been the form team heading into Beijing 2022, but the Tobys are anything but concerned.

“Pressure?” Wendl asked Arlt. “Do you know pressure?”

“No,” came his partner’s deadpan reply. “We don’t put pressure on ourselves. We have been around for a long time. We have been to the Olympics a few times, 2014 and 2018. We have been faced with different pressure situations. We had dominated the 2014 World Cup in a way that we headed to Sochi with the huge expectations to win and that did not really faze us. It was the exact opposite in 2018. The World Cup season was disappointing. We only managed to create a positive feeling right before our trip to PyeongChang 2018 and we came away with the gold. We are used to pressure situation and have seemingly faced it all."

Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendel have not hit top form in 2021-22, but are not concerned ahead of Beijing 2022.
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Using adversity to sharpen their focus

Unfortunately for the Tobys’ rivals, they believe that the trials and tribulations of the past luge season will actually aid their chances of victory at the Winter Olympics.

For starters, there will be no chance of complacency. Having two doubles Olympic titles counts for nothing once you are at the top of the hill, and their lack of a victory this season serves as all the motivation they need to rediscover their golden form.

“Looking back at it, it was very positive that we got rattled a bit,” Wendl said. "It served as a wake-up call. It made us realise what did not work with our equipment amongst other things. We were able to work out the little glitches and now we are really looking forward to coming back to China and having our sled do what we want it to do.”

More: How to watch luge at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022

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