There will be six new events at the Sochi Winter Olympics next month and one is a fast-paced relay race long popular among luge aficionados.
If it seems weird to watch one or two people go down an icy tunnel on a very small sled at 90 miles per hour, then check this out: in the relay race, it’s three sleds in a row, a women’s single, a men’s single and a double.
Instead of handing over a baton, athletes must activate a touchpad at the finish line to open the gate for the next sled to go.
Going down the icy run at the speed of a sports car is dangerous: In 2010 a young luge racer from the Republic of Georgia died during a practice run at the Vancouver Olympics.
So this time around, the track will be “slower,” but in the relay race, sliders have three times the opportunities to make mistakes and the timing clock does not stop between runs, making the reaction time of the male slider and the double team sliders a key component.
Luge athletes from Germany totally dominated the last World Cup season, winning all four competitions in 2013-14. Clearly, the German luge team is expecting a few gold medals in Sochi. But team USA is hopeful, too
American slider Chris Mazdzer told USA Today that he spent about seven weeks in Sochi since the new luge track opened there nearly two years ago. He's now hoping the time spent will pay off when he returns for the Olympic competition next month.
Some 'fun facts' from usaluge.org:
- Luge is the only sliding sport measured to the single thousandth of a second
Speeds in luge can exceed 95 mph. (“The fastest sport on ice” is usaluge.org’s motto)
The average luge run has a vertical drop of 30 stories (300 feet)