Winter Olympics: Hackl's moment of history: German soldier becomes first luger to retain men's singles title

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GEORG HACKL, of Germany, became the first luger to retain the Olympic men's singles title in the closest finish in history. The 27-year-old soldier came from behind on the final run to beat Austria's Marcus Prock by just 0.013sec.

In the only Olympic sport timed in thousandths of a second, that represented a winning margin of just 35 centimetres after four descents of the 1,365- metre Hunderfossen track. 'I don't think I will ever be involved in a greater race,' said Hackl, who also won a silver medal in Calgary six years ago.

But all the sympathy, including Hackl's, was for Prock, this year's World Cup and European champion, who led by 0.048sec going into the final run after producing a track record of 50.166sec on his first descent yesterday.

'I would not have been disappointed with the silver after starting the final run in second place,' Hackl admitted. 'But I do feel sorry for Marcus because, if I am honest, he has been the best racer all season.' Prock unaccountably clocked only the seventh-fastest time as the track slowed over the final run. 'When you lose five hundredths of a second you usually know the reason why. But there is no way of knowing when it is only one hundredth,' he said.

Britain's Paul Hix, who has lived in the same Bavarian district as Hackl for 15 years since his parents left the Isle of Wight where he was born, failed by only one place to achieve his target of a position in the top 25 on his Olympic debut.

Dan Jansen, the American speed skater who fell when favourite at the Olympics six years ago, slipped and had to put his hand down to save himself in the 500 metres yesterday, letting Russia's Alexander Golubev take the sprint gold medal.

Norway unveiled a new skiing sensation when Thomas Alsgaard shocked himself and his team to dethrone Bjorn Daehlie and win the Olympic 30-kilometre freestyle cross- country title. 'It's unbelievable, just unbelievable,' said Alsgaard, after winning in his first Winter Games appearance.

Kerrigan's quiet day, page 37

(Photograph omitted)