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Luge 101: Origins and Olympic history

Gordy Sheer and Chris Thorpe in 1998
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Luge 101: Origins and Olympic history

From the sport’s Olympic debut in 1964 to the 2014 Sochi Games

Jump to a section: 1964 | 1968 |1972 |1976 |1980 | 1984 |1988 |1992 |1994 |1998 | 2002 | 2006 | 2010 | 2014


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. 

1964 Innsbruck

Luge made its Olympic debut with three events: men’s singles, women’s singles and doubles. 

1968 Grenoble

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. 

1972 Sapporo

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. 

1976 Innsbruck

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. 

1980 Lake Placid

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.

1984 Sarajevo

East German women claimed all three spots on the women’s singles podium, led by Steffi Walter-Martin.

1988 Calgary

East Germany swept the medals, with Steffi Walter-Martin becoming the first luger to defend Olympic gold in a singles event.

1992 Albertville

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.

1994 Lillehammer

Italy’s Wilfried Huber defeated his older brother Norbert for the doubles title. 

1998 Nagano

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. 

2002 Salt Lake City

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.

2006 Torino

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. 

2010 Vancouver

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. 

2014 Sochi

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.



Everything you need to know about luge at the 2018 Olympics

Basics | Rules | Origins and Olympic history | Glossary | Equipment | Venue | Qualification

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