Luge 101: Origins and Olympic history
Luge, which comes from the French world for sled, dates back to the 16th century in Switzerland as a method of transportation. It became more of a racing sport in the mid-19th century, when Swiss hotel owners started building luge tracks to attract tourists. The first international luge race took place in Switzerland in 1883, and featured competitors from seven nations. The sport spread in the 20th century with the invention of the flexible sleds and artificial tracks, which are made from cement and allow for faster speeds than natural tracks made from existing mountain roads and paths.
Luge made its Olympic debut with three events: men’s singles, women’s singles and doubles.
East German women went 1-2-4, but all three women were ejected for illegally heating their runners. The third-fastest woman, Italy’s Erika Lechner, was awarded the gold.
The first tie in Olympic luge history took place, with Italy’s Paul Hildgartner and Walter Plaikner matching the gold-medal time of East Germany’s Horst Hornlein and Richard Bredow.
The West Germans were nicknamed “The Coneheads” because they wore egg-shaped helmets. It worked, as they won three medals. The helmet design has since been outlawed.
The East German doubles team of Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn became the first athletes to win back-to-back luge golds at the Games.
East German women claimed all three spots on the women’s singles podium, led by Steffi Walter-Martin.
East Germany swept the medals, with Steffi Walter-Martin becoming the first luger to defend Olympic gold in a singles event.
Austria’s Doris and Angelika Neuner went 1-2 to become the second sisters in Olympic history to finish first and second in an individual event.
Italy’s Wilfried Huber defeated his older brother Norbert for the doubles title.
U.S. doubles teams claimed the silver and bronze medals. It was the first medals for North American athletes in Olympic luge. Germany’s Georg Hackl won his third consecutive singles gold, becoming the fifth Winter Olympian to three-peat in an individual event.
Germany’s Georg Hackl earned the silver medal, snapping his streak of three consecutive gold medals. He became the first Olympian – summer or winter – to win five medals in an individual event.
Germany’s Georg Hackl did not win a medal in men’s singles for the first time since 1984. Both Armin Zoeggeler of Italy and Sylke Otto of Germany repeated as Olympic singles champions. Men’s singles bronze medalist Martins Rubenis won Latvia’s first Winter Olympic medal.
Germany claimed five of the nine medals, including the men’s and women’s titles. Austria’s Andreas Linger and Wolfgang Linger repeated as doubles gold medalists.
Germany swept all four luge gold medals: men’s, women’s, doubles and team relay. Going back to the days of when the nation was split into east and west, Germany owns 31 luge gold medals, while all other nations combined have 13.
Felix Loch successfully defended his Olympic gold medal. Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler won the bronze medal, his sixth medal in six Games.
In the women’s competition, Natalie Geisenberger won the gold medal after claiming the bronze in Vancouver. Erin Hamlin finished third, earning the first medal for any U.S. singles luge athlete at the Olympics.
Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt bested Austria’s Andreas Linger and Wolfgang Linger, the 2006 and 2010 Olympic champions, for the doubles gold medal.
Not surprisingly, Germany claimed gold in the team relay, an event that was making its Olympic debut in Sochi.