2022 Winter Olympics

Beijing Olympics Bring Back Memories of Luge Danger After Death in Vancouver in 2010

Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili died on Feb. 12, 2010, during a training run at the Vancouver Olympics

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Luge, one of the world's fastest and most dangerous sports, kicked off competition Saturday at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The nail-biting sport continues to be a Winter Olympics favorite, but its massive speed and high intensity action can be treacherous.

In the first heat of the luge men's singles competition, Ukraine's Andriy Mandziy faceplanted during the end of his run but was able to walk off the track after sliding to the finish.

With speeds that can reach over 90 mph, luge is one of the most dangerous sports at the Olympic Games. 

Accidents and injuries are common during competition

Twelve years ago, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died before the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after losing control of his sled on a training run and hitting a steel pole that was unpadded. 

The International Luge Federation conducted an investigation where they determined that human error was the cause of the deadly training run crash. While there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track, it was later redesigned with higher walls and padded beams, now meant to limit speeds to just about 87 miles per hour.

And two weeks before the start of the 1964 Innsbruck Games, Polish-born British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski died on the luge track during a practice run.

Team USA Luger Emily Sweeney discusses her rebound after breaking her neck and how her military service is similar to being in the Olympics.

How does luge work?

Luge is a one or two-person event where an athlete lies on their back on a flat sled and races down a specially designed ice track. 

If a slider crosses the finish line without his sled, the run is thrown out, which means automatic disqualification since all of the run times count toward the final score. However, the slider can cross the finish line carrying their sled, and the run will still count.

What equipment is used in luge?

The equipment involved is relatively simple. It includes gloves, boots, a helmet and the sled.

The sled is made from fiberglass and steel and is custom-made for the athlete based on their height and weight.

The sled rides on two sharp-bottomed blades known as runners, the only part of the sled that makes contact with the ice.

What are the different events in luge?

There are four luge events that take place at the Olympics: men's singles, women singles, mens doubles and mixed team relay event.

The mixed team relay event was added to the program in 2014.

Each nation is allowed to enter a maximum of three men, three women, two doubles teams and one relay team. No more than 106 luge athletes can participate at the Games.

Which countries are good at luge?

Germany is the most dominant when it comes to luge.

Since the addition of luge in the 1964 Winter Games, German athletes have won 81 of the 141 medals awarded for it, and 34 of 48 gold medals.

In the singles events, a German man or woman has taken home 20 out of the 30 combined Olympic titles.

Austria’s Olympic luge team has won the second-most medals (22) and third-most golds (six).

Italy follows behind with 22 total medals and the second-most golds (seven).

Who won gold in luge at the 2018 Winter Olympics? 

Austrian David Gleirscher took men’s singles gold in 2018, adding to the country’s legacy in the sport. Austria’s 22 total luge medals are the most in Olympic history for a non-German country.

German Natalie Geisenberger is the two-time defending Olympic champion in women’s singles entering Beijing and has continued her dominance in the sport with four world championship medals since the last Winter Olympics. 

Contact Us