Luge is one of the fastest and most dangerous sports in the Olympic games. Luge originated in Norway and has become a popular sport throughout Northern Europe. It has become an international sporting interest with over 50 member countries and has been an event at the Olympics since 1964.
A luge is a small one or two person sled on which athletes slide face up and feet first. Athletes, called lugers or sliders, lie down on the luge and race down an icy track traveling at up to 90 miles per hour! The lightweight sleds are steered by athletes shifting their body weight and pulling on reins.
The equipment involved is pretty minimal. It involves a sled, a racing suit, gloves, boots, and a helmet. Every piece of equipment is aerodynamic and is made for minimal friction and top speed.
The sled is made of fiberglass and steel and is custom built for the athlete based on their height, weight and proportions. The sled weighs between 50 and 60 pounds and runs from the athletes’ shoulders to his or her knees, providing no head support.
The rules are pretty straightforward:
- Since weight could be an advantage, male sliders must weigh at least 198 pounds, and women must weigh at least 165 pounds. Athletes that weigh less must attach extra weights to themselves to make up the difference.
- Single sleds must weigh no more than 50.6 pounds and doubles sleds cannot weigh more 59.5 pounds. Racing suits cannot exceed more than 8.8 pounds.
- Sleds cannot have mechanical brakes.
- The steels on the sleds cannot be heated.
In the 1964 Winter Olympics 12 countries participated in luge. Germany won the most medals with five. In the 1968 Olympic games, Germany’s women luge team finished first and second. The women were later disqualified and stripped of their medals for heating the steels of their sleds. Despite the incident in 1968, Germany has dominated luge since the beginning with the most overall medals for both men and women.
Like mentioned before, luge is one of the fastest and most dangerous sports in the Olympics. Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvii died after a crash during a training run for the 2010 Winter Olympics. He crashed into both walls near the bottom of the track while traveling 90 miles per hour before being thrown from the track and hitting a metal pole. Although some argue it is an extremely dangerous sport, CNN says luge dangers are exaggerated.
There have been several different variations of the sport ice luge. One variation is street luge. Street luge does not involve ice; instead it uses asphalt roads for the track and a wheeled skateboard-style platform for the sled.
Another form of an ice luge is a party ice luge. I have seen these at fraternity houses and at parties. A party ice luge is a large block of ice with two narrow channels carved through it. A person stands at the top of one channel and dispenses liquor and a mixer into the channel. Another person stands at the bottom of the channel and receives an icy cold drink.
Whatever kind of luge you prefer, ice, street, or party, it is sure to be fast and dangerous!