The luge is fast and furious, with men and women hurtling down sheet ice at bewildering speeds. Here’s why you need to keep a close eye on the discipline at PyeongChang 2018…
Bravery to the extreme
This is effectively extreme sledding, with competitors reaching top speeds of 85-90mph on a state-of-the art piece sled on sheet ice. And all this is done by lying flat on your back with your feet pointing forward, the athletes using the slight movements in their body to avoid a calamitous error. And the sole protection is a racing suit and a helmet. You can’t help but be in awe of their bravery.
More G-force than a space rocket
The physical impact on an athlete is absolutely huge. Competitors can face a G-force level of five in certain turns. That’s the same as a Formula 1 driver, while astronauts typically only experience a G-force of around three at take-off. But luge competitors take their chances with virtually no protection.
Brothers in arms
It’s challenging enough getting one of you down on a sled, which makes the discipline of doubles all the more baffling. The stars of the sport have been the Linger brothers – Andreas and Wolfgang – who won gold in the event in 2006 and 2010. The Austrian pairing’s last Games appearance before they retired saw them have to settle for silver behind the German duo of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arit.
Shiva Keshavan will be appearing at his sixth Olympic Winter Games. The first Indian competitor in luge, he was introduced to the sport by former world champion Günther Lemmerer as luge tried to spread its global interest, in this instance in the Himalayas. Amazingly, the 36-year-old has been without a coach at his last five Olympic Games, but now has former American luge competitor Duncan Kennedy backing him in PyeongChang.
From his garden to the Games
Tucker West deserves a special mention. The American luge protagonist was so blown away by watching luge at Salt Lake City 2002 at the age of six that he went straight into his garden and started sledding. When he tired of that, his dad Brett turned the garden into an ice rink. But that only kept his interest for so long so he built his son a 700-foot wooden luge track in the garden. It worked as, at the age of 18, he was an Olympian.
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) November 9, 2017