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The luge is one of the most dangerous winter sports. Sliders rocket down an ice chute at speeds up to 70 miles an hour, on their backs, without any mechanical steering or braking devices.
Sliders gear consists of a rubberized bodysuit and booties, helmet with protective face shield and special gloves with metal spikes protruding from the finger tips that help increase momentum at the start of the race.
The race begins at the top of the chute. The slider, sitting on the sled holding the handles attached to the start gate, pulls the handles to propel the sled forward, paws the ice for more momentum, then settles into the racing position - lying flat on the back with arms at the side and legs extended with toes pointed forward.
Luge tracks vary in length and configuration but are only 5 feet wide. The average length is 4,100 feet long with lots of turns including at least one S curve.
Although there is no steering mechanism there are a couple of ways to steer the sled. The most direct is for the slider to press one of the curve runners with the inside of the leg. Another way to redirect the runner is for the slider to press down with a shoulder against one of the rear sides.
In the Winter Olympics there are menís and womenís one-person and menís double luge.
The maximum weight for one-person sled is 242 pounds for men and 220 for women. If a luger is under the weight limit, additional weighs may be carried in his/her vest. In the two-person luge the slider on the bottom is the driver and does the steering. The teammate on top is responsible for shifting weight in unison with the driver.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff