Luge is a winter sport which involves one person or two people sledding. They go down the coarse face-up and feet first. A luger steers by using their calf muscles to flex the sled’s runners or by exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. These sleds can weigh 21 to 25 kg for singles and 25 to 30 kg for doubles. Keep in mind that the name of these sleds is luge which is also the name of this Olympic sport. When they go down the track, lugers can reach more than 140 km/h. Lugers compete against a timer in one of the most precisely timed sports in the world—to one one-thousandth of a second on artificial tracks.
The first time this sport was included in the Olympics was back in 1964. However, tournaments were organized before that. The first World Championships were held in 1955 in Oslo. The sport is governed by the Fédération International de Luge de Course (FIL). They are in charge of organizing the competitions. However, since FIL is located in Berchtesgaden Germany, most of the representatives are German. For more information about the sport, check their official website.
History of Luge
The first recorded sled races took place in Norway sometime during the 15th century. However, as a sport, it appeared several centuries later. Just like other sledding sports, Luge originated in the health-spa town of St Moritz, Switzerland, in the mid-to-late 19th century. It was entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt who sold the idea to the world. He believed that while people are at a winter resort, there should be some activities they can do. His more adventurous English guests began adapting delivery boys’ sleds for recreation, which led to collisions with pedestrians as they sped down the lanes and alleys of the village.
Records show that the first official tournament happened in 1883 in Switzerland. With time, Luge grew into popular sport which led to more competitions. It became a part of World Championships and then part of the Winter Olympics. However, it took some time before the Western world adopted the sport. The first luge run in North America was built at Lolo Hot Springs, Montana, in 1965. Even though, USA had competitors for this sport in the Winter Olympics, their association for the sport wasn’t formed until 1979.
Rules & Events
Luge competitions are divided depending on the tracks. Most of the tournaments are done on artificial tracks; however, there are some which take place on a natural track.
These tracks are specifically prepared for competitions. They have straights and curves. Most of the tracks are artificially cooled; however, there are tracks that have no cooling at all. The athletes ride in a flat, aerodynamic position on the sled, keeping their heads low to minimize air resistance. They steer the sled mainly with their calves by applying pressure on the runners—right calf to turn left, left calf to turn right. It takes a precise mix of shifting body weight, applying pressure with calves and rolling the shoulders. There are also handles for minor adjustments.
Even though they are not that common, there are a lot of natural tracks luge races. Natural tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths. Artificially banked curves are not permitted. The tracks are also naturally iced. Most of these tracks are located in Austria and Italy. However, there are tracks in Germany, Eastern Europe, Canada, Scandinavia, Turkey, New Zealand and a few other places. The Upper Peninsula Luge Club in Negaunee, Michigan, is home to one of only five lighted natural track luge runs in the world, and the only natural track in the United States.
The rules of Luge are very precise at all times. This is because in most cases winners are decided by a tenth of a second. There is always a draw which determines the order for the race, regardless of the event. After the first run is done, the order for the next run depends on it. For instance, the person who was first in the initial round will go last in the 2nd round, etc. The measurements of the sled need to be corect at all times, depending on the weight and height of the person that’s sledding. The steel blades of the sled need to be a certain temperature as well.
There is a certain weight limit that can’t be broken in any of the events as well. Between runs, luge athletes are randomly selected for additional weight checks. Before each run, the sled (with the athlete, for artificial track races) is weighed at the start ramp. Additionally, once an athlete is on their sled, they are audibly notified that the track is clear. When the athlete (athletes) hear the sound, they have 30 seconds to being their run. A run becomes official when an athlete and their sled, in contact with one another, crosses the finish line. Breaking any of the rules, no matter how small, will lead to disqualification.
Events & Competitions
The main competitions for Luge are the Winter Olympics and the World Championships. As we mentioned above, all Luge events in these tournaments are controlled by the FIL. However, it’s important to note that this sport has several disciplines. There are:
- Men’s singles;
- Men’s doubles;
- Women’s singles;
- Women’s doubles;
- Team relay.
Additionally, each discipline holds events for different age groups. There are youth and junior classes, general classes, masters, and senior masters classes. In a team relay competition, one man, one woman, and a doubles pair form a team. A touch-pad at the bottom of the run is touched by a competitor signaling a teammate at the top of the run to start.
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