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Steering a sled feet-first down a track while laying down
A luge is small one or two-person sled on which one sleighs supine and feet-first. Steering is done by flexing the sled's runners or pulling straps attached to the sled's runners. Luge is also the name of the sport which involves racing with such sleds.
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 Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT, International Bobsleigh and Tobagganing 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 Fed&eration Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL, International Luge Federation) was founded. Luge events were first included in the Olympic Winter Games in 1964.
The rules are fairly simple in luge. The course is timed, and the athlete must depart from the start handles within a certain time once the track is declared clear.
The athlete is required to arrive at the finish with the luge. Failure to do so results in automatic disqualification. However, athletes are permitted to stop during a run and continue their descent, with a push, after repositioning the sled on the track.
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. Overall time is an aggregate of two or more runs down the course.
Luge can take place on two kinds of tracks: artificial tracks and natural tracks.
Artificial tracks contain curves specially prepared for the sport, and even the ice on the track may be refrigerated. Natural tracks have no such adaptations. Most luge tracks, including almost all natural tracks, are in Alpine countries:
* Altenberg (Saxony)
* Königssee (Bavaria)
* Oberhof (Thuringia)
* St. Moritz – the world's longest and fastest natural track
* Winterberg (North Rhine-Westphalia)
Major artificial tracks, usually built for the Winter Olympic Games, include:
* Turino; prepared for the 2006 Winter Olympics
* Calgary, Alberta
* Lake Placid, New York
* Muskegon, Michigan
* Negaunee, Michigan
* La Plagne
* Salt Lake City, Utah
* Sarajevo; now unsuitable for use
Two different events are held in luge: events for single-seaters and events for double-seaters. Technically, women are allowed to compete in doubles, but doubles competitors continue to be almost exclusively male. Additionally, at major championships, a team competition is held, where one man, one woman and a doubles team form a team. Such teams may consist of athletes of two different nations when each nation cannot field a full team.
The sport of luge is governed by the FIL, Fédération International de Luge de Course. The FIL is located in Germany and is dominated by German representatives.
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