The sport was added to the Winter Olympics in 1964, but its history dates back centuries.
BEIJING, China — For most of us, the word “luge” probably doesn’t come up much between the Winter Olympics. But high-speed sport has a history that goes back centuries.
Here are some things you might not know about the sport of luge:
It has been around for a very long time
According to brittanica.com, the origins of luge (French for “sled”) date back to the 15th century. The first international luge competition was held in Davos, Switzerland in 1883. In this event, according to olympics.com, competitors raced along a 4-kilometre (2.49-mile) icy road. Today’s toboggan runs vary in length, but the one used in the 2022 Olympics is 1,615 meters (1 mile).
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The International Sled Sports Federation was established in Dresden, Germany, in 1913, and merged with the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation (FIBT) in 1935, according to brittanica.com. The sport left the FIBT and created the Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL). USA Luge is the national governing body for the sport in the United States.
The first European luge championships, with single and two-seater events, were held in 1914 in Reichenfels, Austria, according to brittanica.com, and the first world titles were contested in Oslo, Norway, in 1955.
Luge was first included in the Winter Olympics in 1964, and the team relay was added in 2014.
Germany tops world luge medal ranking
Germany has won the most Olympic medals of any country in sports history, followed by Austria and Italy.
Germany have even swept the podium on several occasions – in 2002 and 2006, both in women’s singles. In 2014 and 2022, Germany won gold in all luge events.
The absolute record for Olympic medals in luge has been broken this year
Natalie Geisenberger became the most decorated luge athlete in Olympic history when she won her seventh medal – and sixth gold – at the Beijing Games as a member of the German mixed relay team.
Italian Armin Zöggeler was the previous record holder. “The Cannibal” has won six medals in six consecutive Olympics (including two golds), the most recent being the Sochi Games in 2014.
Luge is faster than skeleton
The luge outpaces the skeleton in speed because traveling feet-first creates less drag than head-first, giving it a slight advantage. Toboggan sleds are also lighter than skeleton sleds, according to olympics.com. Speeds reach over 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour.
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Sledding doesn’t just look deadly, it actually is
Luge wasn’t included in the Olympics until 1964 because it was deemed too dangerous, according to nbcolympics.com. In fact, an athlete died in competition just two weeks before these Games when Polish-born British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki left a course in Austria and was killed.
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