A luge is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine (face up) and feet-first. Steering is done by flexing the sled's runners with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Luge is also the name of the sport which involves racing with such sleds. It is a competition in which these sleds race against a timer.
The first organized meeting of the sport took place in 1883 in Switzerland. In 1913, the Internationale Schlittensportverband or International Sled Sports Federation, was founded in Dresden (Germany). This body governed the sport until 1935, when it was incorporated in the Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT, International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation). After it had been decided that luge would replace the sport of skeleton at the Olympic Games, the first World Championships in the sport were held in 1955 in Oslo (Norway). In 1957, the Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL, International Luge Federation) is founded. Luge events were first included in the Olympic Winter Games in 1964.
The rules are simple in luge. The course is timed, and the luger must depart from the start handles within a certain time once the track is declared clear.
The luger or pilot is required to arrive at the finish with the sled and in sliding position, athletes may no longer push their sleds across the finish line. Failure to do so results in automatic disqualification. However, lugers are permitted to stop during a run and continue their descent after repositioning the sled on the track, but the luger will be disqualified if touched by the track crew or a fan while in the race.
There are weight restrictions on the sleds, as well as restrictions on the design and construction. The 'steels' (the metal blades on the bottom of the runners on which the sled slides) must be within a certain temperature range relative to the air temperature. There are also weight restrictions on the athletes, as well as many other restrictions related to equipment including speedsuits, boots, helmets, gloves, spikes, etc.
Like other timed sports, qualifying determines start position, important during deteriorating track conditions. During World Cup and World Championship events, two runs determine the winners of the Men's Singles, Women's Singles, and Doubles events. At the Winter Olympics, Men and Women Single event are timed over four runs while the Doubles still do two runs. For the World Cup and World Championship Team Event, one run each is performed from the respective country's Doubles, Women's Singles, and Men's Singles with the combined time determining the winner. The Challenge Cup is a single round elimination event, similar to what you see in Drag Racing or Team pursuit track cycling where the sliders have a qualifying round to get bracketed, then run down the track in respective rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals) until a winner is determined.
Artificial Tracks have specially designed and constructed banked curves plus walled-in straights. Most tracks are artificially refrigerated, but artificial tracks without artificial cooling also exist (for example, St. Moritz). Tracks tend to be very smooth. The athletes ride in an aerodynamic and flat position on the sled, keep their heads low to minimise air resistance. The sled is steered mainly with the feet by applying pressure on the runners. It takes a precise mix of shifting body weight, applying pressure with the shoulders and rolling the head. There are also handles for minor adjustments. They speed around high banked curves while experiencing a centripetal pull of up to 7G. Men's Singles have their start locations near where the bobsled and skeleton competitors start at most tracks while both the Doubles and Women's Singles competition have their starthouse located further down the track. Artificial track Luge is the fastest and most agile sledging sport.
Natural tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths. Artificially banked curves are not permitted. The track's surface must be horizontal. They are naturally iced. The use of artificial refrigeration is forbidden. Tracks can get rough from the braking and steering action. Athletes use a steering reign and drag their hands and use their legs in order to drive around the tight flat corners. Braking is often required in front of curves and is accomplished by the use of spikes built on the bottom of the shoes. Most of the tracks are situated in Austria and Italy, others in Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Canada and the United States. The Upper Peninsula Luge Club in Negaunee, MI is home to one of only five lighted natural track luge runs in the world, and the only natural track in the United States. The half-mile track features 29 curves along its 88-meter vertical drop. The hill hosts international luge events and offers luge instruction to the public during the winter months. World championships have been held since 1979 while European championships have been held since 1970.
In a team competition one man, one woman and a doubles form a team. Such teams may consist of athletes of two different nations when each nation cannot field a full team. There is also a relay competition which is still being developed.
The following persons have been president of the FIL: