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Winter sports primer: Luge

Published: Sunday, Feb. 21 1999 12:00 a.m. MST

The name "luge" comes from a French word meaning "sled." The first sledding was reported in 1480, with the first international competition in 1883. There were 21 countries involved, one being the United States. The luge was officially accepted into the Olympics in 1964 at Innsbruck, Austria.

Riders start by sitting on the sled and then pulling themselves into the track using two handles on either side of the start. In the first 20 feet, lugers will also push with their hands. They will then settle into the race position, which is on their back, feet first and head slightly raised to see the track. Lugers steer the sled by pushing in with their legs on two arm-like extensions coming up from the sled's runners.Regulations governing the luge are lengthy and strictly followed. For example, the sled must have two separate runners, can weight no more than 50.6 pounds and can have no mechanical braking devices. Stopping is accomplished in combination with the uphill finish and by dragging the feet. The type of steel used in the runners is also important in that the temperatures of the runners before racing can not be less than 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

The world speed record for the luge is around 92 mph. Several racers on Saturday felt that under ideal conditions, and with practice, the speed record eventually could be broken at the Winter Sports Park and that speeds could even reach 100 mph.

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