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The Technology Behind Luge

After the recent sad death of a Winter Olympian I decided to investigate further into the technology behind one of the most terrifying and dangerous major professional sports ever.

If you have never seen the Luge, I highly recommend you have a look at it in action, either on the internet, television or even live!

  The Olympic Luge (Luge meaning "racing sled" in French) event was introduced in 1964 at Innsbruck Igls in Austria. Lugers slide down the course feet first while lying on their backs on the Luge. The Luge sled was originally controlled by a hand-held strap which guided the front of the runner. Now Luges are controlled by the drivers applying pressure to the sides of the car with their feet and shoulders.

Luge drivers can see very little because of their body position and the immense speeds (of up to 80 miles an hour). Hairpin turns and as the rules require one of the four runs/races to be run at night make this event one of the most dangerous in the Winter Olympics. It is so dangerous, that in 1964 a Polish born British Luger named Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki was killed in a Luge accident, and later two other German Lugers were severely injured.

Several physical forces are at play in the Luge event, friction is one of these. The ice on the Luge course means that very little friction can be generated. Lugers try to further reduce the force of friction even further by making their Luge out of the most slippery materials possible.

The weight of the Luger places pressure on the ice, melting it and creating a slippery layer of water that reduces friction further. But there are rules about overcoming friction as in 1968, the German Women's Winter Olympic Team was disqualified for heating the runners on their Luges as this was considered unfair.

Another physical force involved with Luge is gravity, which causes acceleration and helps the Luge move forward. This motion is balanced by the friction of air pushing against the sled. Because of this air friction, the Luge designers must use aerodynamic principles to reduce the wind drag to the lowest possible.
  Winter Olympics Luge

Most Luge drivers use tight suits, special helmets with rounded face shields and smooth sleds designed with a low centre of gravity. All this reduces the forces that slow the Luge down, so that they can reach the highest of speeds.

I hope that my article has given you an insight into how dangerous the Luge is, and how there is allot more skill and technical stuff involved in it than there appears to be at a glance.

Posted By: Jordan (Guest Author)
Date posted: 15th February 2010

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