Olympic luge consists of three disciplines: men singles, women singles, and doubles. In World Cup, World Championships and other international competitions, two heats are held in each event. At the Olympics, four heats are held in singles and two in doubles. The racer or team with the lowest combined time is the winner.
The start is critical and is the only part of the run where the athlete has control over the acceleration of the sled. As a rule of thumb, a tenth of a second advantage in the start will multiply to a lead of three-tenths of a second at the finish.
Using the start handles on the side of the track, the slider rocks the sled back and forth to begin the race. After releasing the start handles they will gain the last bit of acceleration by paddling the ice with spiked gloves.
The doubles start is basically the same, with the top racer belted to the sled with a strap at the hips. With both lugers in sitting position at the start ramp, the top rider grips the start handles while the bottom rider holds on to the double straps attached to his partner's arms. Rocking back and forth in unison, they sling shot out of the start and onto the course.
After the start, an aerodynamic sliding position is quickly assumed with racers reaching up to 150km per hour while steering their sleds with subtle movements of the shoulders, legs and hands.
Timing is electronic to the 1,000th of a second, by whatever part of the slider or sled first breaks an electronic beam at the start and finish. In order for a run to be considered an 'official run' the slider must cross the finish line with the sled (and all it's parts) in their possession. In other words, a slider may walk across the finish line carrying their sled (and any pieces that became detached) and still be given an official time for the run.
The start order is determined by both a random draw and a seeding system that allows the top-ranked athletes to be among the first on the track, ensuring them the smoothest and fastest ice conditions.
On the second run, the start order is based on the results of the first run with the top 15 racing in reverse order and the rest by placing from 16th to last. The same applies to doubles competition. The number of sliders in the first and second grouping may change dependant on the total number of competitors.
In World cup competition, points are awarded according to placing. Overall World Cup titles are won in each event by competitors accumulating the most points over the season.
Most artificial ice tracks today are used for both bobsleigh and luge competitions. Among the regular stops on the World Cup luge circuit are tracks in Altenberg, Winterberg and Koenigssee in Germany; Igls, Austria; Torino, Italy; Lillehammer, Norway; Park City, Utah; Lake Placid, NY; and the Canadian team's home tracks in Calgary and Whistler. The track built in Whistler, BC for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics is now open. All courses drop a minimum vertical distance and capture numerous banked curves from top to bottom. Men's singles courses range from a minimum of 1000 metres to a maximum of 1250 metres. For women's and doubles competition, courses range from 750 to 1050 metres.
A luge sled consists of two runners, a seat and a pair of handles for the slider. The seat rests on two bridges connecting the runners and is made of an aerodynamic fibreglass pod. Weight limits for singles and doubles sled are 23 and 27 kilograms respectively. Steel blades are attached to the runners and are the only part of the sled to make contact with the ice. These blades or steels are considered the single most important part of a racing sled. Using belt sanders, files and sandpaper, the blades are constantly adjusted and polished to make them run fast and adapt to different ice conditions and track.
Lugers use a variety of equipment including fibreglass helmets with face shields, spiked gloves, specialized footwear and skintight racing suits. Weight vests can be worn by lighter races to minimize the natural advantage held by heavier competitors. The maximum amount of weight that can be carried is based on a formula. For example, Junior Men can carry 75% of 75 kg minus their body weight to a maximum of 10 kg.
Disqualification (or DSQ's) can occur for a variety of infractions, not necessarily intentional. All equipment, such as shoes, spikes, clothing and sled must conform to set standards of weight or other measurement. For example, the sled pod must not exceed a thickness of 120mm, a width of 550mm (singles) and must not extend beyond the athlete's shoulders or knees. Checks are also done to ensure steel temperatures do not exceed a control maximum temperature. Athletes are also weighed at a pre-determined time prior to the race and are given a maximum weight (based on a formula) that they cannot exceed during the race. If an athlete feels they have been unfairly put at a disadvantage, they have the right to protest no later than 10 minutes after the end of the heat or event. A protest fee of 100 Swiss francs must be paid at the time of the protest, which will then be ruled on by a three member jury.
There is also random testing for use of banned substances by athletes. In Canada, testing is administered by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.
For further rule information, please contact a CLA representative who will be pleased to put you in touch with a qualified race official.
Velocity Monthly Newsletter
Sign up to receive all the latest luge news through our monthly newsletter Velocity.