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Know Your Winter Olympic Sports: Luge
By Jodie Sweitzer on Tuesday, November 19 2013

In luge, athletes travel feet-first down a track made of ice. It's the Olympic equivalent of going sledding on a snow day... except 1000x more extreme.

Luge gets its name from the French word for sled, but the sport was actually developed in Switzerland.

Next Up: How fast can they go???

Luge uses the same track as bobsleigh and skeleton. Of the three sports, luge is the fastest.

The maximum speed limit in the U.S. is 85 miles per hour, but lugers can reach speeds of nearly 90 mph!

Next Up: How does luge work?

Riders wear special suits and helmets with visors to cut down on wind resistance. Lugers start out in a seated position and push off using spiked gloves, also known as "paddling." 

 

Athletes steer the sled by moving their center of gravity.

Next Up: Luge at the Olympics

Luge has been part of the Winter Olympics for 50 years.

There are four Olympic luge events: men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, and the new relay competition that will happen for the first time at the Sochi Games. The Sochi track has 20 curves for the men's singles luge and 17 curves for the women's singles and men's doubles.

Next Up: Men's Doubles

The men's doubles event is technically open to both men and women, but men traditionally ride together.

The larger rider is usually on top to make the luge more aerodynamic.

Next Up: Men & Women's Singles

The singles competitions take place over two days, with two runs on each day.

This format is unique to the Winter Olympic Games, but the hope is that competitors will be rewarded for consistency, endurance, and the ability to handle pressure.

Next Up: What is the Team Luge Relay?

No new sports have been added to the Sochi Games, but there are a few new events including the team luge relay. Each nation enters three sleds: women's singles, men's singles, and a doubles pair.

First up is the women's singles luge. When she crosses the finish line, she must hit a touchpad that opens the gate for her teammate, the solo man. He repeats the process and releases the doubles luge team. The fastest total time wins.

Next Up: Which country has the most gold medals for luge?

Fun Fact: Germany has dominated in luge, winning the most gold medals of any country in each of the three luge events. 

Can the Germans manage a clean sweep in Sochi? Make sure to tune in on February 8-13 to see which countries bring home the gold! 

Sources: International Luge Federation, the USOC, Sochi2014, Team GB

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