Mike Rowbottom
mikepoloneckIt is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the fourth and final luge event at the Sochi Winter Games – the mixed team relay, which is making its Olympic debut - will be won today by the nation that has already earned victory in the first three luge competitions.

Germany's dominance in the sport, which sends competitors hurtling feet first down a mile-long channel of twisting ice at 130 kilometres (80 miles) an hour, has been the central prop thus far in a Winter Games performance which has seen them reach the top of the medal list with the Games tipping into the second half of its programme.

While the German team may be besporting themselves around Sochi in team jackets which make Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat look like Harris Tweed, the colour with which they have been mainly preoccupied has been gold.

lugenataliageigettyNatalia Geisenberger, clad in one of Germany's natty Sochi 2014 jackets, inspects the gold medal she has just received for her performance in the women's luge event @ Getty Images

Going into today's competition, five countries have bettered the German total of eight medals – but none has so far been able to match their gold standard of six. (A very satisfying start to his first Olympics in situ for Germany's new IOC President Thomas Bach...)

In terms of efficiency, it puts one in mind of that great German footballer of the 1970s, Gerd Muller, who turned almost every chance into a goal. (Quick note to any Dutch football fans – sorry to have reminded you of the man whose goal beat your boys in the 1974 World Cup final. And a quick note to any English football fans – sorry to have reminded you of the man whose goal beat your boys in the 1970 World Cup quarter-final. Bonetti! Labone! Sort it out! Oh, it's probably too late now ...)

gerdmullerrudikrolafpgettyHe shoots, he scores...Germany's hit rate at the Sochi 2014 Games has begun to resemble that of their legendary footballer Gerd Muller, seen here shooting the decisive goal of the 1974 World Cup final past Dutch defender Rudi Krol @ AFP/ Getty Images

Germany's golden strike rate – courtesy of Felix Loch in the men's single, Natalia Geisenberger in the women's single and the two Tobias's, Arlt and Wendl, in the doubles - has taken people aback in Sochi.

But most observers can hardly be surprised that they have earned such rich reward thus far on the winding chute of the Sanki Sliding Center. After all, luge is a part of this nation's great winter Games tradition.

Germany head the overall medals table since luge became a full Olympic event in 1964, having won 30 so far, of which 14 have been gold. One medal behind in second place – the former German Democratic Republic. As Arlt exclaimed, with some justice, in the wake of a victory which deposed Austria's Olympic champions of 2006 and 2010 to the silver medal position: "Germany is on top of the world in luge. It's our sport."

lugedoubleswingettyGermany's triumphant luge doubles pair in Sochi, Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl @ Getty Images

In terms of opponents, the field has been pretty limited for the main part of the sport's time in the Games. Put it this way - when the United States took silver and bronze in the pairs at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, it was the first time any nation other than Germany, Italy, Austria and the USSR had won any medal in luge.

Since then only one other nation, Latvia, has found its way onto the luge medal podium at the Games. It is a tight group at the top – but the level of competition there is ferocious.

By winning bronze behind Loch in the men's singles event at Sochi, Italy's 40-year-old veteran Armin Zoggeler put himself top of the all-time individual Olympic luge rankings with six medals over the space of a 20-year career.

lugearminzoggsochigettyItaly's Armin Zoggeler celebrates his unique achievement of winning a sixth Olympic luge medal on the Sochi podium @ Getty Images

But if that table were judged in the same way as the medals table at the Games, then one man would be above the Italian whose fierce competitiveness has earned him the nickname of "Il Cannibale".Yes. You've guessed it. A German.

Georg Hackl will not trouble the Olympic scorers further given that he retired after the 2006 Games, where, like Zoggeler this week, he competed in the year he turned 40. But this slim, moustachioed soldier from Berchtesgarden in Bavaria has three consecutive Olympic victories to his name – from 1992 to 1998. Which is one more than the Italian has managed.

Zoggeler is a 6ft man mountain. Hackl, by contrast, is 5ft 8in - and no more than a man hillock. How he managed to defeat conspicuously more powerful opponents on big occasion after big occasion was something which seemed baffling to him.

What made Hackl's achievement even more baffling at the 1998 Nagano Games was that each of his four starts was slower than his Italian rival's - something which, in theory, should have made a crucial difference.

Asked the perennial question again after two more superbly executed runs had extended his first-day lead to just over half a second, Hackl replied with a gentle smile: "I don't know this myself, frankly."

Some contributing factors, at least, seemed clear. Hackl was a trained mechanic and metalworker, who devoted many hours to constructing his own luge. Nobody rode on a better sled.

And the rigorously toned physiques of his opponents may actually have been a disadvantage. Hackl was said to "gel" effectively as he moved - that is, he reduced wind resistance by relaxing and keeping his muscles loose.

There is an analogy here with sprinting, where – as any top performer will tell you – relaxation is the key. No strain, more gain.

After Hackl had come from behind to win the 1994 Olympics by a 100th of a second with his final run, the reported reaction of Austria's silver medallist Markus Prock was: "Again Hackl! He is always lucky!"

But how does someone manage always to be lucky? "His mental strength is phenomenal," Thomas Schwab, the then German coach, said. "It borders on virtuosity."

The American Adam Heidt, who finished ninth in 1998, reflected: "It's like a poker game. You don't show anything you have, you just keep smiling. Hackl is good at that. He's the best."

After the first day's competition in Japan, the Canadian and US teams protested unsuccessfully against the new, aerodynamic, yellow booties Hackl and the other Germans had worn. Hackl defended them as normal advances in design, worth perhaps 200ths of a second per run.

In the wake of his third Olympic success he laughed off another American question about the booties - "they were really special," he said. "Especially the colour."

Asked what were the chances of his continuing to the 2002 Olympics, he screwed up his face and put his finger and thumb together. "Things are more difficult now for me than when I was 20," he said with another grin. "We all grow older. Just look at yourselves."

Sixteen years on, I can confirm that the advice this multiple Olympian offered us in Japan has turned out to be correct. Thank you for that, Georg...

The aerodynamic apparel of lugers has given rise over the years to jokes about safe sex and flying sausages. References of the latter kind appeared to have got Hackl's hackles up – he was once reported to have taken out a writ to prevent his local paper referring to him as the "Speeding White Sausage".

lugehacklwhitesausage1992gettyGermany's Georg Hackl en route to the first of three Olympic luge titles at the 1992 Albertville Games - and looking nothing like a speeding white sausage @ Getty Images

Before driving down to Nagano town centre for the medal ceremony, Hackl stopped in at a little clubhouse the Germans had established at the site and managed a quick beer. (It may not surprise you to hear that we media types with him did likewise.) He then emerged, to ringing cheers, with something clamped triumphantly in his hand - a German sausage sandwich.

Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, covered the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as chief feature writer for insidethegames, having covered the previous five summer Games, and four winter Games, for The Independent. He has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, The Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. His latest book Foul Play – the Dark Arts of Cheating in Sport (Bloomsbury £12.99) is available at the insidethegames.biz shop. To follow him on Twitter click here.