The site of the bobsled and luge run isn't much more than a patch of sunlight between the trees of the Hunderfossen woods, just enough bare hillside to throw down a twisting snake of ice around which a few thousand people gather in the mornings to drink coffee, stroll the slopes and watch the kids slide down a snowbank. If this all seems like a festival in some isolated mountain village, that's just fine with the sizable contingent of the crowd answering to the name of Huber.
The brothers Huber—Arnold, Guenther, Norbert and Wilfried—have all taken their turns on the run at Hunderfossen. And while it's not the ice track they use back in Brunico, Italy, they have made themselves quite at home. On Feb. 14, 26-year-old Arnold took fourth in the singles luge, and on Sunday, 28-year-old Guenther won the bronze medal in the two-man bobsled. In between, Wilfried, 23, and Norbert, 29, teamed up with outsiders and mounted the medals stand for gold and silver, respectively, in the doubles luge. "As soon as everyone gets a medal," says Wilfried, "there's no problem."
Well, maybe one: Norbert and Wilfried can't slide together. Here's this sport with a premium on synchronicity, bodies molding together and even muscles twitching in sequence, and the two brothers who are the world's best can't hook up. "In doubles, the one on top needs to be bigger, and we're about the same size," explains Norbert, who is 5'6", weighs 170 pounds and has shared a sled with Hansjorg Raffl for a decade. But Raffl says that alter five Olympics it's time to retire, which leaves Norbert all alone—or as alone as anyone can be in a family of two sisters and five brothers.
Emma and Emil Huber have been waiting patiently in Italy for their sons' triumphant return from the Games. The brothers have been calling home every few days, and when the Olympics end, the festival will move directly to Brunico. "A big dinner, lots of people, maybe drink a little wine," says Arnold. In the background there might even be music from the traveling Hubers, featuring Wilfried on drums, Guenther on baritone and Norbert on flügelhorn.
February 28, 1994
Such fraternization is an unlikely sight on the World Cup circuit, where competition is fierce and any development in sled technology immediately prompts suspicion of industrial espionage. "Everyone has secrets, even brothers," says Norbert, "but when it comes to it, you want to help each other."
Wilfried and his partner, Kurt Brugger, didn't need any help to win the luge gold last Friday—but they needed every inch of their talent. Norbert and Raffl had flashed down the track in the day's first run in a course-record 48.274 seconds but were overtaken in the second run. Wilfried's final winning margin: .049 of a second. "We didn't think we'd make it to the gold," Wilfried admits.
The next day the Huber brothers were back at Hunderfossen—Arnold at the foot of the run squinting in the sunshine and talking up plans for a family summer of rock climbing and skiing, Norbert atop the hill, Willy on a walkabout, Guenther in his bobsled Hashing by on his first run. "It makes for support, "says Arnold, "and it feels just as good when one of my brothers wins."
And there is yet another Huber brother, the youngest, who was left at home during these Games; he could bring an instrument to the baud, add a medal to the collection and even become a potential partner for Norbert's sled. That would be 17-year-old Diedmar, but Arnold shakes his head at the idea. "It is maybe a little harder, with us in the same sports, for him to do it. He's going to school. He wants to be not an athlete but"—-and at this point Arnold's eyes cut away before he goes on—"what do you call it? Yes, a masseur."