Your guide to some Winter Olympic events

3 February 2014

We will begin this week’s guide – in the run up to the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi – with the Luge.

The first recorded use of the term luge is in 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.

The luge is a small sleigh ,which has the capacity of only one or two persons. The origin of luge dates back to the ancient times though the luges used in the modern day have many similarities with the sleighs used by the Vikings of Slagen countryside near the Oslo Fjord.

Developing as a sporting event during the nineteenth century, luge was included in the men’s and women’s Olympic program at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, and since that time, athletes from Germany, Austria or South Tyrol (a German speaking area in Italy) have won every gold medal but one.

There have – to date – been three luge events held at the Winter Olympics: Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles and Men’s Doubles. But this year, the relay event will make its debut. For this new competition, the team will include one man, one woman and a doubles team.

Luge is the fastest and most dangerous of the three Olympic sliding sports which also include bobsleigh and skeleton. 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 for singles and 25-30 kilograms for doubles. Lugers can reach speeds of 87 miles per hour (140 km/h). Manuel Pfister of Austria, reached a top speed of 95.69 miles per hour (154 km/h) on the track in Whistler, Canada prior to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Competing against a timer, lugers and are timed to a thousandth of a second, making luge one of the most precisely timed sports in the world.

Names to watch out for in the singles competitions are Felix Loch in the men’s competition who will be defending his Olympic title and Natalie Geisenberger who won the 2013 World Cup and took the bronze medal four years ago in Vancouver.

Germany has a number of medal challengers for this year’s games such as David Moeller who won the silver medal in Vancouver. Tatjana Huefner is the current Olympic champion for the women’s singles event. In fact, Germany remains a dominant competitor for the women’s singles luge race because the nation has won four gold medals and ten out of twelve medals since 1998. Austrian lugers interrupted Germany’s streak and took home the other two medals.

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