USA Luge has trademarked the phrase “Fastest Sport on Ice” for good reason. The nearly 500-year-old sport made its Winter Olympics debut in 1964. Since then, speeds have gotten faster and the competition has gotten fiercer. Some luge competitors have won by fractions of a second — the 1998 Olympic women’s race was decided by a mere .002 seconds. Now you may be wondering: how fast do lugers go?
Luge competitors hurdle down an icy track at speeds upwards of 140 km/h (86.9 miles per hour). Some can reach upwards of 90 mph. (We get nervous breaking 60 mph on the highway.)
And yes, this does sound incredibly dangerous. We agree. There’s not a whole lot separating lugers from the hard ice…besides their sled. Competitors wear a skin-tight uniform (without much padding), in order to maximize their speed.
In 2010, luge competitors and spectators were reminded of how dangerous this sport can truly be.
Hours before the 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony, Russian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a crash during training. Kumaritashvili crashed on the final 270-degree turn of the track, which was riddled with treacherous turns, and died almost instantly upon impact. His death led organizers to reevaluate track designs.
Kumaritashvili’s death was a tragic and rare occurrence. Crashes in luge are not uncommon, but thankfully, crash fatalities are. That doesn’t mean we’ll be speeding down an Olympic luge track anytime soon, though.
This is certainly a sport we’ll leave to the Olympians. As for us, we’ll fulfill our need for speed on Space Mountain.