2014 Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics: Luge

One of the fastest Olympic sports

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Did You Know?

The only Olympians to win four consecutive gold medals in the same individual event are Carl Lewis (long jump), Al Oerter (discus), and Paul Elvstrom (sailing).

Luge, which takes its name from the French word for sled, is one of the fastest Olympic sports, with riders exceeding 90 mph.

Luge action in Sochi will be at Sliding Center Sanki. The track for the men's luge competition is 1,365 metres long, and 1,325 meters for the women's and doubles luge events.

At the 2014 Winter Games there will be four events in the luge competition for the first time: men's singles, women's singles, doubles and a mixed team relay. The mixed team relay is a new event, approved by the International Olympic Committee in 2011. One sled from each of the other three events is allowed to compete per country. Luge doubles can be contested by either sex but the teams are almost always made up of two men.

The singles format for Olympic luge is unique. Instead of the usual format of two timed runs in one day, athletes make four runs down the course over two days of competition. Men and women compete on the same track, but the women start the race at a point farther down the track.

The doubles competition, in which one rider lies on top of the other, uses the more traditional format. Each team makes two timed runs during the one-day competition. The team with the fastest total time is the winner.

Luge made its Olympic debut at the 1964 Innsbruck Games and has been dominated by a handful of countries—Germany, Austria, Italy, and the former Soviet Union countries.

It wasn't until the 1998 Nagano Games that the United States broke the stranglehold, claiming the doubles' silver and bronze. They repeated the silver-bronze feat in the doubles event 2002 at Salt Lake City. The team of Brian Martin and Mark Grimmette took the bronze in 1998 and the silver in 2002, but the U.S. failed to medal in the 2006 Games in Torino or at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

by Gerry Brown, Christine Frantz and Jennie Wood
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