The first official luge competition occurred in 1883. Competitors from Australia, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland started on a 4-km road between Davos and Klosters. Australian student Georg Robertson and Swiss mailman Peter Minsch tied for the win with a time of 9 minutes, 15 seconds. Their average speed: 26 km/hr.
Fast forward to 1957, when the sport of luge split from bobsleigh to form its own international federation, then making its Olympic debut in 1964.
In luge (French for “sled”), racers begin by sitting on open fibreglass sleds. Pulling on fixed handles in the ice, they burst out of the start. After this explosive start, they use spiked gloves on the ice surface for extra acceleration before lying down on their backs, feet stretched out in front of them, heads back to be as aerodynamic as possible. Luge racers steer using their legs and shoulders, and brake by sitting up, putting their feet down and pulling up on the sled runners.
Three events are on the Olympic program: women’s single luge, men’s single luge, and double luge, which has been a mixed event since the 1992 Games in Albertville, although no mixed team has ever competed at the Games.
The individuals or teams race down the course against the clock. They make four runs in singles and two runs in doubles, and the lowest total time (measured to one-thousandth of a second) determines the winner. Lighter weight competitors may use a regulated amount of ballast to raise the total weight. The luge course is between 1,000 and 1,500 metres long. In modern luge, with advanced equipment, lugers can reach top speeds of 140 km/h.