One of the fastest Olympic sport, Luge riders hurtle down a slippery ice track at speeds exceeding 90 mph. It involves competitors lying on their backs on a tiny sled with their feet stretched out in front of them, and racing down icy track at great speeds, without brakes and relying only on reflexes for steering.
Luge competitors use their feet, calves and shoulder muscles to direct the sled. The main steering mechanism are the two kufens or elongated runners, on which the competitor rests their feet. A slight nudge to the kufen can drastically shift the sled’s direction.
To maximize speed and to be as aerodynamic as possible, a competitor must keep their head as far back as possible within the pod, or main part of the luge. Competitors also wear tight-fitting uniforms and shoes with pointed toes to help increase speed.
Luge runs are timed to the thousandth of a second, so speed and precision are key.
The first international race was held in Davos in 1883, with competitors racing along an icy 4km road between Davos and the village of Klosters.
There are three divisions in the luge competition: men's singles, women's singles, and doubles.
Men and women compete in singles events and a doubles event. Officially, the doubles event is open to men and women, but, traditionally, men have ridden together, with the larger man lying on top for a more aerodynamic fit.
Singles Competition: In both men’s and women’s singles, the competition takes two days, with two runs staged on each day. Each run counts. The four times are added up, and the fastest total time determines the winner. Men and women compete on the same track, but the women start from a position further down the course.
Doubles Competition: Doubles luge is a one-day competition in which pairs of athletes take two runs down a course. Like singles, each run counts and the fastest total time determines the winner.
Four Run Format: The four-run format is unique to the Olympic Winter Games. It is designed to reward consistency, endurance and ability to withstand pressure, particularly on the second day. At most events, such as the World Championships and World Cup races, singles are contested over two runs.
Artificial Tracks have specially designed and constructed banked curves plus walled-in straights. Most tracks are artifically refrigerated, but artifical tracks without artifical cooling als exists (for example, St. Moritz). Artificial Track Luge has been an Olympic discipline since 1946.
Natural Tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths. Artifically banked curves are not permitted. The tracks's surface must be horizontal. They are naturally iced, there is no artificial refrigeration.