A Luge is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine(face up) and feet-first. Steering is done by flexing the sled’s runners with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Racing sleds weigh 21-25 kilograms (46-55 lbs.) for singles and 25-30 kilograms (55-66 lbs.) for doubles. Luge is also the name of an Olympic sport. Of the three Olympic sliding sports, which include bobsleigh and skeleton, luge is the fastest and most dangerous. Lugers can reach speeds of 140 km per hour (87 mph). The Guinness World Record is held by Tony Benshoof of the United States who achieved a speed of 139.9 km per hour (86.93 mph). One athlete, Manuel Pfister of Austria, reached a top speed of 154 km per hour (95.69 mph) on the track in Whistler, Canada prior to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Lugers compete against a timer and are timed to a thousandth of a second, making luge one of the most precisely timed sports in the world. The first recorded use of the term “luge” is 1905, from the Savoy/Swiss dialect of French “luge” meaning “small coasting sled”, and is possibly from a Gaulish word with the same root as English sled.
There are four luge disciplines:
- Men’s singles
- Men’s doubles
- Women’s singles
- Team Relay (Olympic discipline starting in 2014)
These are further broken into several age classes which include novice (ages 7-10), youth (ages 11-14), junior (ages 15-20), and general (ages 21 and older). Older competitors may enjoy the sport in masters (age 30-50), and senior masters (age 51+) classes. In a team relay competition one man, one woman and a doubles pair form a team. A touchpad at the bottom of the run is touched by a competitor signaling a teammate at the top of the run to start.
Rules and procedures for races are very precise. Prior to a race the athlete must be weighed. This is to determine if the athlete is entitled to carry extra weight on their body while sliding. Men may use additional weight amounting to 75% of the difference between body weight and a base weight of 90 kg. Women may use additional weight amounting to 50% of the difference between body weight and a base weight of 70 kg. Doubles athletes may use additional weight amounting to 50% of the difference between body weight and a base weight of 90 kg. Additional weight is not allowed if the body weight of the front person and back person together exceeds 180 kg. If one of the partners weighs more than 90 kg, the weight exceeding the 90 kg mark is added to the lighter partner. If there should still be a difference between the partner’s weight and the 90 kg mark, the difference can be compensated according to an official weight table. A drawing is held to determine start order for the race. Athletes are assigned a number which is displayed on a bib. During major national and international events, Men’s singles consists of four runs. Women’s singles and doubles competitions consist of two runs. The cumulative time of all runs is used to determine finish order.In all three events, the start order after the first run is determined by the outcome of the previous run, with the last-place slider sliding first, the next-to-last place slider sliding second, and so forth, with the leader of the previous run sliding last. Between runs athletes are randomly selected for additional weight checks. Before each run the athlete and his or her sled are weighed at the start ramp. The temperature of the sled’s steel blades is checked and may not be more than 5°C above that of a previously established control temperature. Once an athlete is on their sled they are audibly notified that the track is clear. At this point a tone sounds and the athlete has thirty seconds to begin their run. A run becomes official when an athlete and their sled, in contact with one another, crosses the finish line. If an athlete and sled are not within contact of one another the athlete is disqualified from further competition. Disqualifications may also take place for any violation of rules and regulations. Certain disqualifications may be appealed.