After first stepping into the limelight, aged 16, at the Winter Youth Olympic Games 2012 in Innsbruck – where she was victorious – Jacqueline Lölling became European and world champion six years later in 2017, and won the IBSF Skeleton World Cup in 2017 and 2018. At PyeongChang 2018, she mounted her first Olympic podium, taking the silver medal behind Lizzy Yarnold (Great Britain).
Jacqueline Lölling began skeleton racing at age 12, in 2007. Three years later, she participated in her first international competition, the European Cup, on the Cesana Pariol Olympic track (Italy), where she won both races on the programme! She was crowned German champion at age 15 in December 2011 and went to the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012 as the favourite. On 21 January, on the ice track in the village of Igls, the young German prodigy took gold. In a single heat (the first descent was cancelled due to weather conditions), Jacqueline beat the silver medallist, Austria's Carina Mair, by almost a second (0.97), and the bronze medallist, Canada's Carli Brockway, by over a second (1.05). "It was difficult because of the snow, and now I am very happy that it has ended so well," reflected the German after the event. "We came to the track many times to prepare, it was a good move!"
After taking the bronze in the 2012 Junior World Championships in Igls, Jacqueline won two gold medals in her age category, in Winterberg in 2014 and in Altenberg in 2015. Jacqueline's second junior world title led to her selection for her first IBSF World Championships, on the Winterberg track, where, on 6 and 7 March 2015, just after turning 20, she won the silver medal behind the Olympic champion, Lizzy Yarnold.
During the 2015-2016 season, the German prodigy joined the World Cup circuit, and mounted the podium for each of her first three races (third in Altenberg, and second in Winterberg and Königsee). After just missing out on the podium (finishing fourth) at the European Championships in St Moritz, the national runner-up – to Tina Hermann – took two more World Cup podium places to finish second overall behind her compatriot. It was in 2017 that she advanced to the highest international level, with her first victory in the World Cup on 6 January in Altenberg. A week later, she won the European title in one heat on the Winterberg track with a lead of 0.16 seconds over the Austrian Janine Flock, before taking two World Championship gold medals on the Königsee track: in the mixed team event (men's skeleton, women's skeleton, two-man bobsleigh and two-woman bobsleigh), where she played a decisive role in securing Germany's victory, then, five days later on 25 February 2017, becoming, at the age of 22, the youngest world champion of all time in her discipline by beating Tina Hermann by 0.25 seconds and Lizzy Yarnold by 0.73 seconds over three runs, the second run having been cancelled because of a snowstorm.
After the World Championships, Jacqueline prepared for PyeongChang 2018 in the most convincing of ways: the final of the skeleton World Cup was also an Olympic test event, taking place on 17 March on the Alpensia track. Jacqueline dominated the first two heats, setting the sliding centre's first track record of 52.75 on her second run in the process, to take her third World Cup victory of the season and the overall title with a total of 1,591 points. This meant that, in the same year, she was European champion, world champion and winner of the Crystal Globe!
Already focused on the PyeongChang Games, and keeping a cool head, Jacqueline explained that turn 9 of the track "is the most difficult", and that she had to continue working "to find the perfect line, which I have not managed yet. But it is fun, it is unlike any other track in the world, I really like it!"
Before her first Winter Games, Jacqueline won the World Cup Crystal Globe for the second year running: four victories in nine races between November and January, and never lower than sixth place. At the Olympic event that began on 16 February 2018 at the Alpensia Sliding Centre, the German, who had just celebrated her 23rd birthday, announced her arrival by placing second in the first heat, 0.08 seconds behind Lizzy Yarnold (Great Britain). By the end of the day, after her second descent, she was leading the field, but by a very small margin, with Flock trailing by 0.02 seconds and Yarnold by 0.1 seconds. The next day, still struggling with turn 9, she slipped into third position, having placed seventh in the third heat. A final effort allowed her to secure the silver medal, 0.45 seconds behind a supersonic Yarnold in the fourth and final descent.
The Olympic silver medallist was clearly delighted with the result: "In the final run, I knew that I could do better than before. I got better, I had fun, it was quite decent. I felt an enormous amount of pressure because we were so close! My goal was to win a medal, so I was under pressure all the time, including before the Games. But now I have it. All is well. It means a great deal to me to represent Germany. We have a very good team and I am pleased to be a part of it," she said after the event. Jacqueline Lölling still has many years ahead of her to add to her medal haul, and we will no doubt see her battling it out for gold at Beijing 2022.
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