What’s Luge?

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Tobogganing is a winter sport where riders use a sled to glide down icy tracks with many curves. Luge and skeleton were invented in Switzerland and were not initially intended for competitive sport. Tobogganing became a competitive sport in the late 19th century and became an Olympic sport in the 1990s. There are two types of tracks, natural and artificial, and sleds can reach speeds of over 90 mph. Europeans dominate the sport, with Germany, Austria, and Italy producing the most proficient lugers.

Tobogganing is a winter sport for tobogganing, first invented in the 19th century in Switzerland. The term may refer to the sport or sled used to glide down icy tracks with many curves. In this sport, riders lie on their backs in the sled, carefully controlling the turns with foot and shoulder movements. In World Cup and Olympic competitions, there are single riders of both genders and two-person luge events.

The creation of luge and skeleton (upside down luge) was not initially intended for competitive sport. In St. Moritz, Switzerland, guests at various spas caused problems for residents when they used small sledges to glide through the city streets. To protect the residents, hotelier Caspar Badrutt built a trail for guests to sled to their heart’s content.

It was not until the late 19th century that tobogganing became a truly competitive sport and it took much longer for tobogganing to become an Olympic sport. It did not replace skeleton luge in the modern Olympics until the 1990s. Since then, however, the sport has been highly regarded as a part of the Olympics due to the high speeds, hard turns, and flying blind aspects of luge.

Today, there are two types of tracks. There are natural trails, which do not have banked turns and do not require artificial refrigeration. Other tracks are built with banked turns and straights, and most rely on refrigeration to keep the track icy. Most events allow the “luger” to qualify with a specific time before competing in the “main” competition, which will then determine who wins, and victory is based on recording the fastest time as he crosses the finish line in the sled.

Course length can range from about 2461 feet to 3937 feet (about 750-1200 meters). Women’s events often have a shorter course than the men’s, but use the same course and start lower than the men’s. Sleds are built to go very fast, sometimes exceeding 90 mph (144.84 km/h), which makes tobogganing the fastest of the toboggan sports. An open fiberglass sled sits atop two steel skids called blades or steels. The sleds also have handles, which can help with speed control of the sled.

Since becoming a global sport, luge has been dominated by Europeans. Americans and Canadians, although they performed well in many winter sports weren’t the best sledgers in the world, earning only a handful of bronze and silver medals at World Cup events and the Winter Olympics. Countries that appear to produce the most proficient lugers include Germany, Austria, and Italy.

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