Königssee sliding track destroyed amid German flood disaster
Much of the sliding track at Königssee, Germany has been washed away, after torrents of floodwater pushed through large segments of the facility and turned it into piles of rubble.
German officials said Sunday they were evaluating the damage, though it was clear that large areas of the track — which has played host to major international bobsled, skeleton and luge events for more than 50 years — would have to be rebuilt.
The Königssee area is one of many in Western Europe that has felt the wrath of storms in recent days. Floods were blamed for at least 180 deaths in Germany and Belgium through Sunday, and police said they feared the number would continue rising. More than 100 people in the Berchtesgaden area, which includes Königssee, were evacuated after the Ache River swelled.
“It’s so sad,” said Natalie Geisenberger, the two-time Olympic women’s luge gold medalist for Germany who considered Königssee her home track.
Races that were planned there this fall and winter will not be held, said Thomas Schwab, the secretary general of the German bobsleigh and luge federation. There were no immediate reports of injuries at the track, which had fans taking rides down the track on wheeled sleds Saturday afternoon — before mudslides and huge plumes of water began ripping through the facility that night.
“Unbelievable,” retired German women’s bobsled standout Susi Erdmann said on Facebook. “My former home track at Königssee is just washed away.”
Königssee was scheduled to play host to World Cup bobsled and skeleton events on Dec. 4 and 5, then was to be the site of a World Cup luge racing weekend on Jan. 1 and 2. It is possible that those events would be shifted to one of the other three sliding tracks in Germany — Winterberg, Altenberg or Oberhof, all of which are already scheduled to play host to other World Cup sliding weekends this winter.
“My heart is broken!” German luge star Felix Loch, the two-time Olympic champion and 13-time world champion — with three of those world titles being claimed on his home Königssee track — wrote on social media. “Hopefully everybody is ok and healthy!”
Königssee was the first artificially refrigerated sliding track in the world, converting to that from a natural track in the late 1960s. It has played host to dozens of World Cup and world championship events, most recently the luge world championships this past season.
American sliders have been competing at Königssee for decades; in the last 15 seasons, 42 different athletes representing USA Luge and USA Bobsled and Skeleton have won at least one medal there in either World Cup or world championship competition.
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