Luge is the French word for sled, and historical discoveries point to the use of sleds as early as AD 800 by Vikings in the Slagen countryside near the Oslo Fjord. The Vikings are believed to have used sleds with two runners closely resembling the modern-day version.
Luge originally developed as a sport in Switzerland, where the first course was built at Davos in 1879. Four years later, the town hosted the inaugural international competition, with competitors racing along a 4km track from Davos to the village of Klosters.
Luge made its Olympic debut at the Innsbruck Olympic Winter Games in 1964.
Luge in Russia
The first official luge competition in Russia was held in 1910 on Moscow’s Vorobyovy Gory.
The Luge Federation was established in 1969, and in 1971 the first Soviet championship was held in Bratsk.
In 1972, Russian athletes participated in the luge for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.
Luge is considered to be one of the most dangerous Olympic winter sports. It involves sliding at high speeds on single or two-person sleds on a special track of artificially frozen ice.
The athlete or athletes starts in a seating position and after pushing off lie down on their back on the sled with their feet stretched out in front of them. The rider steers the sled by moving his or her center of gravity. The winner of the competition is the rider with the fastest time. During a run, the sled can reach speeds of over 140 km/h.
There are three classes of Olympic competition: singles men, singles women and doubles, in addition the Olympic Games sports program in Sochi has added a relay competition for the first time. Men and women compete on the same track, but the women’s starting line is further down the course than the men’s.
Individual competitions for men and women in the single sleigh are held for two days with two runs per day. The four times are added together, and the fastest total time determines the winner.
The men’s double luge is a one-day competition, in which the fastest total time of two runs determines the winner. There is no written rule that says a team must comprise members of the same sex, but men traditionally ride together.
In the Sochi 2014 Games teams will compete for the first time in a relay competition. This will consist of teams from each country: A woman (singles luge), a man (singles luge) and two men from the doubles luge. The runs sequence for each team: woman — man — doubles.
At the finish each athlete must touch the special touch-pad, which automatically opens the in-run gate for the next team member. When the third member of the team reaches the exchange zone and hits the touch-pad, this will determine the team’s total time (from the start of the first team member to the finish of the last team member).
- Riders wear specially designed suits to reduce wind resistance.
- Luge gloves are spiked at the fingertips to assist riders as they accelerate at the start.
- Riders wear helmets with clear or tinted visors that extend under the chin to reduce resistance.
- Riders wear special shoes that typically have firm, smooth outer soles. The luge shoes are often called «Calypso».