What’s long and white and slid all over? That’s right, Sochi’s slopes are about to get really slippery from February 8-13 with the 14th occurrence of the luge at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
This is a somewhat new addition to the Games, but since this sport dates to 15th century Norway, luging and its precursors are probably the great-grandparents of all wintry shenanigans. The mechanics haven’t changed much since its infant years: a sleigh, a stretch of ice and a luger with nothing but muscle as the means for steering.
Following its induction to the Winter Olympics in 1964, the sport used to consist of three events: a men’s, doubles and women’s division. However, this will be the first year to introduce another event — mixed relay. This differs from doubles because the mixed relay teams are co-ed, whereas the doubles division consists of men only.
The country known to dominate the luge has been East Germany, which is quite comical considering its departure from the atlas as of 1990. The numbers don’t lie — a total of 29 medals, 13 of which are gold, can be attributed to this ex-team. Luckily for the Germans, reunification hasn’t marred their stellar record, as Germany is right behind its former self in terms of metallic decoration with 26 medals earned (11 gold). Historically, this places Germany (and one its variants) in the interesting position of being best and second-best at an Olympic sport at the same time.
Even though the past lends favor to the Germans, that doesn’t seem to daunt the American team from trying. This year, 10 U.S. contestants shall be representing in luge events. Among our tributes, Erin Hamlin of the women’s singles appears to have the most pizzazz attached to her name. She has been competing for nine years and is known for breaking the winning streak of Germany’s teams at the 99th race in the 2009 FIL World Luge Championships at Lake Placid.
Another participant worth highlighting is Lawnguyland’s very own Aidan Kelly. Hailing from West Islip and just 19 years-old, Kelly may be a familiar face to some of our Eagles. I’ll be sure to watch his run myself — LI represent!
While luging may appear like a smooth ride, it’s classified as an extreme sport. Since the slide is usually a kilometer’s worth of curves and g-forces, lugers can accelerate quite a bit as they zoom to the finish line. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that the luge is the fastest of the three sliding Olympic sports, the other two being the bobsleigh and skeleton.
The current record-holder for maximum speed achieved while luging belongs to Manuel Pfister of Austria, who reached a whopping 95.69 mph just before the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver. If North Ocean Avenue were a luge track (and it has been for the past few weeks), he could slide a round trip of my daily commute, back to Saint Joe’s, and still make it to class before me.
In related news, I finally know how to make it to class on time.
By: Anthony Sementilli
A part of the SJC Talon Winter Olympics 2014 Series
Men’s singles: Felix Loch (GER), Albert Demtschenko (RUS), Armin Zoeggeler (ITA)
Women’s singles: Natalie Geisenberger (GER), Tatjana Huefer (GER), Erin Hamlin (USA) who became the first USA Luge athlete to earn a medal in a singles event in the Olympics.
Doubles: Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl won third straight gold medal in luge for Germany. Andreas and Wolfgang Linger (AUT), Andris and Juris Sics (LAT)
Teams: First year for luge team relay with Germany (unsurprisingly) winning gold, Russia earned silver, Latvia won Bronze.