Beginners Guide to Olympic Luge - Sochi 2014

Luge has been part of the Olympic Winter Games programme for 50 years with Sochi 2014 marking the 14th successive time it will have appeared.

The luge programme has remained the same throughout with men’s, women’s and doubles events taking place at Innsbruck 1964 up until Vancouver 2010 however there will be an addition for Sochi 2014.

The team relay event, which sees one sled from each of the other three events compete per country, has been introduced to the Games programme for the first time ever.

Germany have been the dominant nation in the sport since Innsbruck 1964 and were only prevented a clean sweep of gold medals at Vancouver 2010 by Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger.

They took gold in the doubles ahead of Latvian siblings Andris and Juris Sics in second with the German pairing of Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch placing third.

Still Germany won every event at the 2013 World Championships and every 2012-13 World Cup title with Georg Hackl the best of the lot with five career Olympic medals – three golds and two silvers.

Armin Zoeggeler of Italy is level with Hackl on five but his hauls amounts to two golds, one silver and two bronzes. The pair the only lugers to medal at five consecutive Olympic Games – Hackl Calgary 1988 to Salt Lake City 2002 and Zoeggeler Lillehammer 1994 to Vancouver 2010.

Britain haven’t won an Olympic medal in luge but have had representation at every single Games barring Nagano 1998 with Adam Rosen bidding to make his third appearance in Sochi in the men’s.

Olympic 800m champion from the Moscow 1980 Summer Games Steve Ovett’s younger brother Nick competed in luge at Calgary 1988 and Albertville 1992.

The sport of luge involves sliding feet first on your back – the opposite of skeleton which is head first on your front – at high speeds down a specially built track made of ice incorporating twists and turns on single or two-person sleds. A completion of the track is called a run.

The athlete, or athletes as is the case in doubles, begin in a seated position on the sled and push off using gloves on their hands that are spiked at the fingertips to assist them as they accelerate to start.

The sled is steered by the luger changing their centre of gravity with the winner of the men’s, women’s and doubles competitions the athlete, or athletes in doubles, with the fastest total time after four runs. In the team relay the winner is the nation with the best total time from the three events, which are run separately on a different day.

All events take place on the same track however the women’s and doubles starting line is further down the course than the men’s. The men’s and women’s competitions take place over two days with two runs on each day.

Doubles, which sees one athlete lying on top of the other, takes place on one day over two runs. While there is no written rule that the pairing must be of the same sex, men traditionally ride together.

The Sochi 2014 track winds its way for 1,814m, has 18 curves and a vertical drop of 131.9m. During a run, the sled can reach speeds of almost 90mph.