The coach of Germany’s national bobsled team, Christoph Langen, has set a goal of winning at least three medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. And Langen would gladly take a couple more, if he can get them.
DW: Germany's bobsledders have won at least on gold medal at every Olympics for the past 20 years. After a start to the season that left something to be desired, there is still room for improvement. What sort of form is your team in just ahead of the Sochi Games?
Christoph Langen: There is always room for improvement. Of course we want to achieve the maximum possible, and we are capable of this. Everything is possible, but there won't be any gifts, the competition isn't napping either. We'll just have to see whether we have that bit of luck needed. We've had two fourth-place finishes this year, which were just one hundredth of a second behind third place. Maybe we'll be lucky enough at the Olympic Games to be on the right side of that hundredth of a second.
Apart from the Russian team, which, as the hosts, are among the favorites, other countries have also improved. From your point of view, which nations have a shot at a medal?
I can't remember when so many nations were so strong in bobsledding. I believe there are seven countries that could be in the running for a gold medal. These include the Latvians, the Americans, the Canadians and the Swiss. There is also bound to be the odd surprise. Great Britain is very strong in the four-man bobsleigh; they've even brought a second team to the Olympic Games. Every country has two to three sleds. So we have 15 sleds that will be competing for the medals. It will be very, very tight. You can see this in the World Cup races, where we see the ninth-place finisher just two tenths of a second behind first. When you only have two tenths of a second between the top ten finishers, then you know it is tight.
These are the first Olympic Games since the most successful German bobsled pilot, André Lange retired. How have things developed since?
I believe that in the past four years we have developed a situation in which we don't have just one team. André Lange dominated things in Germany for a very long time; there really was just this one team. This year, all six sleds are among the favorites. Francesco Friedrich, Maximilian Arndt, and Thomas Florschütz as the veteran in our team. On the women's side, the two veterans Cathleen Martini and Sandra Kiriasis, as well as the young Anja Schneiderheinze, who has already taken part in an Olympic Games, but as a pusher. In terms of potential we are very strong.
What is new and special about the bobsled run in Sochi?
The new thing is that there are three uphill stretches. These existed in Nagano (in 1998) too, but not to this extent. There are inclines of as much as 16 percent, before you go straight downhill again. The changes in speed are great. You wind up slowing down to 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour) from 140, and 150 meters (492 feet) later, you are back up to 145 kph. It's like a little roller coaster. For the pilots it is very nice to drive, but also very variable. However, it is all very, very difficult to be fast while driving consistently over two days. That will be the big challenge.
The German bobsled pilots are regarded as being among the favorites at the Winter Games. How many medals are you hoping to win?
I would be pleased if we won a medal in every discipline, so in the two- and four-men sleighs in both the men's and women's competitions. We could take a maximum of nine, so if we get 30 percent of that, we've done fine. If things go well, maybe we could take a fourth or fifth medal. I am aiming for at least three.
During his active career, Christoph Langen was one of Germany's most successful bobsled pilots, winning two gold and two bronze Olympic medals. He also won seven world and European championships. He has been the coach of the German national team since 2010.