Men's luge zoomed off to a fast start during the opening two runs of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
After the opening rounds, Germany's Felix Loch, who entered the Sochi Games as the overwhelming favorite, holds the lead with a combined time of 1:44.149.
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The sport's top stars opened up the event, setting the tone for a competitive slate that saw the track's record book rewritten early and often.
Loch, the 24-year-old reigning Olympic gold medalist started slower than he would have liked with a time of 52.185 seconds. But he redeemed himself with an improved time of 51.964, the fastest run of the day and a new course record.
He raced ahead of veteran Olympian Albert Demenchko, a 42-year-old Russian competing in his seventh Olympics event. The veteran held the early lead with a 52.170 time throughout his opening slate,
Armin Zoeggeler put himself in strong position to grab his sixth Olympic medal. Italy's flag bearer will enter the second day in the bronze spot with a total time of 1:44.893, putting him .744 of a second behind Loch.
Andi Langenhan also represented Germany well, placing fourth through the opening two runs. Germany has dominated the men's singles competition since it was introduced as an Olympic event in 1964. Nine of 13 gold-medal winners have come from Germany, which has secured 22 of 39 possible medals during that stretch.
For those unaccustomed to luge, a sledder glides down an icy track at blazing speed while maintaining control through the track's twists and turns. USA Today Sports' Jeff Zillgitt described the Sochi course, which has a roller-coaster feel full of turns, but few steep dips.
Starting at 2,746 feet above sea level, the track at Sanki is the longest in the world – nearly 5,000 feet from the bobsled start to the finish line – and it features 17 curves. The elevation drop is just 410 feet compared to 500 feet in Whistler.
Despite safety concerns fueling the course's construction after Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run in the 2010 Vancouver Games, the Olympians reached blazing speeds on Day 1. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press noted the fast tallies from the early going.
They're getting up to 86, 87 mph on the men's luge ice tonight. And remember, they wanted this facility to be even faster.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) February 8, 2014
The United States has yet to claim a medal in men's single play, and that drought does not look to end this year. Chris Mazdzer, 25, is the highest-rated American at 13th place with a 1:45.387 total time.
Even though this is the world's longest course, fractions of seconds still make all the difference in luge. Slowing down by half of a second could cost someone a prestigious Olympic medal.
The medal winners will be determined after two more runs set to take place on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Times from all four runs through the weekend will be added to decipher who earns a spot on the podium in Sochi.