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 in the Luge position. In other words, a slider may not walk across the finish line carrying their sled and still be given an official time for the run.Luge is the only sliding sport timed to the 1,000th of a second.
The start order is determined by both a random draw and a seeding system that allows the lower-ranked athletes to be among the first on the track, ensuring them the smoothest and fastest ice conditions for the slower athletes while 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 dependent on the total number of competitors.
Ranking and seeding
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. Athletes ranked in the top 15 for men, the top 12 for women, and the top 8 for doubles are named to the "A" seeded group and do not have to pre-qualify for the next world cup. The remaining athletes must race in a pre-qualifier race to fill the rest of the world cup spots. Only 30 men, 23 women, and 15 doubles are allowed to race in the actual World Cup competition.
Most artificial ice tracks today are used for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions. Among the regular stops on the World Cup luge circuit are tracks in Altenberg, Winterberg and Konigssee in Germany; Igls, Austria; La Plagne, France; Lillehammer, Norway, Park City, UT, St. Moritz, Switzerland, Lake placid, NY, Nagano, Japan, and Torino, Italy. 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 meters to a maximum of 1250 meters. For women's and doubles competition, courses range from 750 to 1050 meters. for a complete listing of specs, lengths, locations etc, visit the
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 Fiberglas 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 Fiberglas 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, Senior men can carry 75% of 90 kg minus their body weight to a maximum of 10 kg. For athletes weighing more than the formula, they can only wear 4 kg of clothing.
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.
Training for Luge
Training for Luge is split up into 2 main categories - off-season training and in-season training.
During the off-season training, which typically runs from May through September, is where a Luge athlete builds up his coordination/agility/strength through a series of programs. Although each athlete on the US National Luge team will have a personally catered program, there are some common elements that are found in every program. The start is crucial for success on the track and this is where the majority of the training focus is given and there is an indoor start facility located in Lake Placid, NY as well as an Olympic Training Center (OTC) where many athletes reside during the off-season training months. Resistance training, plyometric movements, physio-ball movements and sprint programs are very common throughout all Luge athlete's off season programs and most athletes will spend between 20 and 30 hours each week in the gym and on the track. Olympic movements (Snatch and Power cleans) are a major focus for the resistance portion of the training and the workouts will be set in phases which gradually build throughout the summer from general prep to very sport-specific, low rep and extremity explosive movements as the racing season is near.
In season training is where all the strength and coordination is put to work. Typically, athletes will take 3-6 training runs each day for 6 days a week prior to the world cup season and the focus changes from raw strength to sliding and starting. This "pre-world cup" training typically runs from the beginning of September through the end of November. During this time, athletes will supplement their on-track training with resistance training 3 times each week. Once the racing begins in late November/early December, training runs are cut down to around 8 each week and resistance training is cut down to 2 sessions per week.
Q - How often do Luge athletes crash?
A - Crashing is part of any sport and Luge is no exception. It is not unusual for beginning athletes to crash on a daily basis while they are learning the specifics of the course and their sled. I have crashed many times throughout my career but the past 6 years of my career have yielded only a handful of crashes. Luge is a sport that demands precision and that comes with the price of inevitable crashes from time to time. Luge is a sport of experience and it takes time to recognize a potential crash and prevent it in time. Q - Does it hurt & what injuries can occur?A - Although Luge sleds travel at speeds in excess of 90mph, it is a relatively safe sport. Typical injuries are sprains, bruising and "ice burn" which is a friction burn between the ice and the athletes body. In my career I have had only a handful of injuries; none of which were serious. With that said, a Luge athlete's body is unprotected and can be very painful if a wall is hit during a run.
Q - How could I get involved in the sport of Luge?
A - USA Luge hosts grass-roots recuitment programs intended to find young athletes interested in Luge! It is how Tony started and how 95% of our current National team was found. Please visit USA Luge Slider Search for more details.
Q - How much travel is involved with the sport?
A- On the elite level or US National team, athletes spend around 7 months traveling and competing on the World Cup Circuit. Many athletes also choose to spend their summers training at the USA Luge head quarters in Lake Placid, NY. The USOTC is located there and provides a place where athletes can live and train at a relatively low cost.
Q - where are all the tracks located?
A - There are 4 official tracks in North america. The remaining 11 tracks in the world are located in Europe and Japan. Because of this, athletes spend a tremendous amount of time over seas. Tracks are located in Austria, Germany, France, Norway, Latvia, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the United States.
Q - How much are your sleds worth?
A - They're priceless because the USLA owns them. Each country (including the USA) makes their own sleds and all of our sleds are not available on the open market. I'm sure someone would pay 20k for world championship winning sled but they just aren't for sale.