Hackl quitting after Olympic Games
Hackl is aiming to win a medal in an unprecedented sixth Winter Olympics
SESTRIERE, Italy -- Three-times Olympic luge champion Georg Hackl is to retire from the sport after the Torino Games.
"These will be the last runs of my career, I'm very close to the end," said the 39-year-old German, who is competing in his sixth Games.
Hackl, who made his Olympic debut in 1988 in Calgary, has bounced back from injuries, operations and thoughts of retirement to win his ticket to Torino.
Luge's greatest all-time competitor, the Hackl has won not only three gold medals but also two silvers in his previous Olympic campaigns.
In 2002, his attempt to win a record fourth consecutive gold fell short when he had to settle for silver before Italy's Armin Zoeggeler, who is favorite for the men's singles event taking place at the Cesana track on Saturday and Sunday.
Hackl still entered the record books in Salt Lake City, becoming the first Winter Olympian to win medals at five consecutive Games.
A sixth and final one is now within his reach.
"It will be tough for gold but I have reasons to believe I can be competitive," Hackl said. "The track is in perfect condition and I have been making some progress lately."
The stocky Bavarian, a popular yet often grumpy character, is known as the "Speeding Sausage" for the way he squeezes into his tight racing suit.
He hates that nickname and his fans and rivals, now getting ready to life without him, are careful never to call him that way, preferring more flattering names such as the "Gentleman of Luge".
"He has all my respect," said Zoeggeler. "I will miss the fights we had for years."
Russia's European champion Albert Demtschenko was also full of praise: "He's a truly great competitor," he said. "It's hard to believe he won't be around any more".
Hackl, who went into politics three years ago and sits in a district assembly for the conservative Christian Social Union, had an operation on a slipped disc in 2005 and has been plagued by nerve problems in his left arm.
He then had to fight a virus that made him miss the European championships.
"What he has achieved for our sport is tremendous," said International Luge Federation president Josef Fendt.
"He is ever so popular not only in Germany but also in Europe and everywhere. He will be sorely missed."
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