- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Andreas and Wolfgang Linger left the past two Olympics with gold medals. They may have to settle for a different color this time.

Aiming to become the first pair to win the doubles luge title in three straight Olympics, the Austrian Linger brothers will have to outrace powerful teams from Germany and Italy as well as a pair of Russian sleds very familiar with the curves and corners of the Sanki Sliding Center track.

The Lingers - Andreas is one year older than Wolfgang - won their first gold at Turin in 2006 and then defended their crown four years ago in Vancouver, joining Germany’s Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn (1976 and 1980) as the only doubles team to repeat as champions.

However, to win No. 3, they’ll have to find enough speed to overtake Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, who dominated the World Cup circuit this season. Wendl and Ardt, who have been sliding together for 13 years, won six of the eight races they competed in and finished second in the other two.

They were fastest during training runs this week, and it’s likely they’ll hand another luge gold to Germany’s haul of medals at these games after Felix Loch won the men’s race and Natalie Geisenberger demolished the women’s field.

Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler are expected to be in the medal mix along with Italy’s Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber, and Russia’s Alexander Denisyev and Vladislav Antonov.

Here’s five things to watch Wednesday when luge doubles up:

GERMAN DROUGHT: It’s been 12 years since a German team won the doubles title, an eternity for the sliding superpower. Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch won Germany’s last gold in 2002. Before that, the Germans won eight of the 10 Olympic doubles races - there was a tie in 1972 - and have grabbed 19 total doubles luge medals since 1964.

U.S. CHANCES: The Americans won silver and bronze in 1998 and 2002, but have been shut out since. Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall and Christian Niccum and teammate Jayson Terdiman were hardly competitive during the World Cup season and it would take a near miracle for one of them to make the podium.

ICE, ICE MAYBE: Rising temperatures in recent days have given lugers and their coaches more to think about when considering which steel runners to us in competition. The ice, though, seems to be holding up well despite the fluctuating weather conditions.

TWO AND OUT: Unlike the singles competition, doubles has just two runs instead of four. With only two chances, any mistake could mean the difference between a medal and finishing in the middle of the pack.

NICCUM’S FAREWELL: Niccum hasn’t officially declared he’s retiring, but this will likely be the 36-year-old’s final doubles competition. He may compete in the new team relay event.

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