Did you know that Vikings were the first to create luge sleds? They made them to slide down mountainsides in Olsofjord. They raced as early as 800 AD! The sleds were not aerodynamic, but they were made heavy and strong for speed.
The first international luge race was in 1883. Seven nations participated including the United States. By the turn of the century, luge was governed by the International Bobsled Federation, and in 1953 the sport had its own governing body, Federation Internationale de Luge de Course. Finally, in 1964, luge became an Olympic sport at the games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Luge takes place on a track called "spiral." The athletes fly down a chute lying on their backs on open sleds, feet first. They race down the ice covered course at very high speeds around curves steering with their calves.
The sport of luge is started by an announcement to clear the track of coaches, athletes, and equipment. They start from a stationary position at the fire of a gunshot. The athletes have on gloves with small spikes in the palms to push themselves off the starting line. The luge sleds holding one or two athleteís head down the track one at a time, being timed too. Here is an explanation of the luge in action.
OK, letís do this. We are just coming off the start ramp. I need to put lots of pressure one my left arm and right leg to make it through this curve. We need to move fast to make a good carve and to keep on going. We need to keep switching directions to go into the next area. We have a large chance of crashing. Now we go through a labyrinth to go to the next curve. Now we are going insane on this track. Here comes the Omega curve, the first of 3 curves. We must steer quickly and smoothly to pass through this curve. We made it. The sledís gonna split with these small turns. Weíre almost there. As we approach the finish timing light, we have one more curve to go. Yea, we made it.
In the Olympics
The first Olympic Luge competition took place in 1964 in Innsbruck, Austria. Twelve nations competed. There was a single lane, which meant only one could go on at a time. They are tested by time. The sleds for the Olympics are either made of metal, wood, or both. There are many restrictions regarding weight of sleds and the athletes, even their uniforms. Luge events are both singles and doubles. Both men and women can compete.
From the United States, Gordy Sheer & Chris Thorpe won the Silver Medal (doubles) in 1998!
Gold medal winners from previous Olympics include:
Men's Singles: 1994 & 1992
Georg Hackl (Germany), 1988 Jens Muller (West Germany)
Men's Doubles: 1994 Italy, 1992 Germany, 1988 East Germany
Women's Singles: 1994 Gerda
Weissensteiner (Italy), 1992 Doris Neuner (Austria), 1988 Steffi