Departing German luger at the 2010 Olympics
|Highest governing body||Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course|
|Team members||Teams of 1 or 2|
|Mixed gender||Yes, but usually in separate competitions|
|Type||Winter sport, Time trial|
|Equipment||Sled, helmet, suit, visor, gloves, finger spikes, booties|
|Olympic||Part of Winter Olympic program in 1964 to 2026|
A luge is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine (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. Racing sleds weigh 21-25 kg (46-55 lb) for singles and 25-30 kg (55-66 lb) for doubles. Luge is also the name of an Olympic sport.
Lugers can reach speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph). Austrian Manuel Pfister reached a top speed of 154 km/h (96 mph) on a track in Whistler, Canada, prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. 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 very practical use of sleds is ancient and widespread. The first recorded sled races took place in Norway sometime during the 15th century.
The sport of luge, like the skeleton and the bobsleigh, originated in the health-spa town of St Moritz, Switzerland, in the mid-to-late 19th century, through the endeavours of hotel entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt. Badrutt successfully sold the idea of winter resorting, as well as rooms with food, drink, and activities. 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.
The first organized meeting of the sport took place in 1883 in Switzerland. In 1913, the Internationale Schlittensportverband or International Sled Sports Federation was founded in Dresden, Germany. This body governed the sport until 1935, when it was incorporated in the Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT, International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation). After it had been decided that luge would replace the sport of skeleton at the Olympic Games, the first World Championships in the sport were held in 1955 in Oslo (Norway). In 1957, the Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL, International Luge Federation) was founded. Luge events were first included in the Olympic Winter Games in 1964.
Americans were slow to adopt the sport of luge. The first luge run in North America was built at Lolo Hot Springs, Montana, in 1965. Although the United States competed in every Olympic luge event from 1964 through 1976, it was not until 1979 that the United States Luge Association was founded. The first artificial American track was completed in that year for use in the 1980 XIII Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York. Since that time the United States luge program has greatly improved. A second artificial track was constructed near Park City, Utah, for the 2002 XIX Olympic Winter Games at Salt Lake City.
Artificial luge tracks have specially designed and constructed banked curves plus walled-in straights. Most tracks are artificially refrigerated, but artificial tracks without artificial cooling also exist (for example, in St. Moritz). Tracks tend to be very smooth.
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. A successful luger maintains complete concentration and relaxation on the sled while traveling at high speeds. Most lugers "visualize" the course in their minds before sliding. Fastest times result from following the perfect "line" down the track. Any slight error, such as brush against the wall, costs time. Track conditions are also important. Softer ice tends to slow speeds, while harder ice tends to lead to faster times. Lugers race at speeds averaging 120-145 km/h (75-90 mph) around high banked curves while experiencing a centripetal acceleration of up to 5g. Men's Singles have their start locations near where the bobsled and skeleton competitors start at most tracks, while both the Doubles and Women's Singles competition have their starthouse located farther down the track. Artificial track luge is the fastest and most agile sledding sport.
Natural tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths. Artificially banked curves are not permitted. The track's surface should be horizontal. They are naturally iced. Tracks can get rough from the braking and steering action. Athletes use a steering rein and drag their hands and use their legs in order to drive around the tight flat corners. Braking is often required in front of curves and is accomplished by the use of spikes built on the bottom of the shoes.
Most of the tracks are situated in Austria and Italy, with others in Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Canada, Switzerland, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Bulgaria, Romania, New Zealand and the United States. 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 over 800 meter (half-mile) track features 29 curves along its 88-meter (289 ft) vertical drop. The club hosts international luge events and offers luge instruction to the public during the winter months.
There are five luge disciplines.
These are further broken into several age classes - multiple youth and junior classes that cover the range of age 7-20, and general class (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:
The sport of luge requires an athlete to balance mental and physical fitness. Physically, a luger must have strong neck, upper body, abdominal, and thigh muscles. Athletes also use Wind Tunnels to trainStrength training is essential to withstand the extreme G-forces of tight turns at high speeds. Since lugers have very little protection other than a visor and helmet, they must be able to endure the physical pounding administered by the track when mistakes are made.
As with many extreme sports, luging has risks. Though most injuries involve bumps, bruises, broken bones and concussions, fatalities do occasionally occur. Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered a fatal crash during his final practice run for the 2010 Winter Olympics on the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Hours later, the International Luge Federation concluded that the accident was caused by a steering error and not a track error; nevertheless, changes to the track were made before the re-opening. Kumaritashvili was the fourth athlete to die while in preparation for a Winter Olympics competition, following speed skier Nicolas Bochatay, aged 27, who died while preparing for the Albertville 1992 games; and British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki and skier Ross Milne, aged 19, who both died in the run-up to the Innsbruck 1964 games.
The sport of luge is governed by the FIL, Fédération International de Luge de Course. The FIL is located in Berchtesgaden, Germany, and includes 53 member nations. It is traditionally dominated by German representatives, however.
The following persons have been president of the FIL:
up to: 2014
|Totals (5 nations)||14||14||14||42|
up to: 2014
|Totals (6 nations)||15||13||14||42|
up to: 2014
|Totals (5 nations)||14||14||14||42|
up to: 2014
up to: 2014
|Totals (6 nations)||44||42||43||129|
|Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski||1964||Innsbruck||Training run||1964 Winter Olympics|
|Stanis?aw Paczka||1969||Königssee||First run||FIL World Luge Championships 1969|
|Nodar Kumaritashvili||2010||Whistler||Training run||2010 Winter Olympics|