LUDWIG SPEEDS TO COURSE RECORD
That didn’t take long.
The first to race, Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl immediately kicked off the luge men’s singles competition with a track record: 57.110 seconds.
Kindl's record lasted (maybe) five minutes.
Germany’s Johannes Ludwig, fourth in the start list, laid down a 57.063 first heat – a result so strong, it even forced the notoriously intense athlete to smile.
Though Kindl's second heat was slightly faster than Ludwig's, the German maintained an overall lead at the halfway mark: a 1:54.501 total.
The frontrunner at these Games, Ludwig topped the 2021-22 Luge World Cup standings. He previously earned singles bronze and team relay gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
Meanwhile, Kindl placed second in those same World Cup standings, and won the 2022 European Championships. Despite a long career that has included five World Championship medals from 2015 through 2020, Kindl’s three Olympic results have been unfortunately consistent: ninth place in 2010, 2014, and 2018. Will the fourth time be the charm?
Italy's Dominik Fischnaller, who came in fourth at PyeongChang, finished third after Saturday's heats.
Currently in fourth, Germany’s Felix Loch – looking for a third singles gold after a fifth-place showing at the PyeongChang 2018 – faces an uphill climb for the top spot in heats 3 and 4. His first run was in the red at 57.383 seconds, and he slowed to a 57.500 in his second. He'll need to shed 0.382 seconds and then some to earn gold on Sunday.
One thing is clear: Austria's reigning gold medalist, David Gleirscher, won't defend his title. He scraped the wall on his second run and ended up in 8th following two runs -- over a second out of the top three.
The three Americans put in very solid performances – with star Chris Mazdzer in the top ten, but at arm's length to earn another singles medal this year.
Starting 18th, Mazdzer couldn't match his speedy silver medal performance in PyeongChang. He still managed a top ten heat thanks to a strong performance during the serpentine “dragon’s tail” at the bottom of the course.
“Woo-hoo! Love you guys at home,” Mazdzer said after run one. “I can’t even think.”
His second heat was a bit slower at 58.039, but ultimately left him in 9th.
Tucker West performed surprisingly well on the world's biggest sporting stage. Despite some skidding, he held on during his first run for 14th place. He scraped off a few hundredths of a second during run two and ended up 11th.
Teammate Jonny Gustafson almost hit the wall during his first heat. But he managed to straighten himself out, and despite a slight bump towards the end, he managed 12th after his first run. His slightly slower second heat still kept him inside the top 20.
Men’s singles finishes up with the third and fourth runs Sunday, February 6th at 6:30 a.m. ET. Find out who wins gold in real time on NBCOlympics.com.