History of Luge
History

References to sled racing first appeared in chronicles from Norway in 1480 and the Erz Mountain region in 1552. The first international luge race took place in Feb. 1883 with 21 competitors representing six nations, including the United States. The four-kilometer (2.5-miles) race, from the Swiss resorts of St. Wolfgang to Klosters, and organized by hotels in Davos, was won by Georg Robertson, a student from Australia, and Peter Minch, a mailman from Klosters, who each raced to identical first place times of 9 minutes, 15 seconds!

At the turn of the century, luge was actually governed by the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (F.I.B.T.), which administered all the ice-track sports. In 1935, the F.I.B.T admitted luge athletes as a "Section de Luge." In 1955, the first world championships were held in Oslo, and in 1957, in Davos, delegates from 13 countries established their own international governing body with the formation of the Federation Internationale de Luge de Course (F.I.L.). Luge was inaugurated as an Olympic sport at the 1964 IX Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

The luge competition consists of four events; men's singles, women's singles, doubles and Team Competition. Doubles teams can consist of two athletes of either gender, but are almost always two men.

Having no formal luge program at the time of the 1964 Winter Games, the United States' first Olympic luge team consisted mainly of American soldiers who were stationed in Europe. Back in the U.S., luge attracted a small number of athletes who were relegated to training on the 1932 Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid, N.Y. With no formal national organization to support, develop and promote luge, American sliders remained in relative obscurity over the next 15 years.

With the arrival of the 1980 XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid came the construction of the nation's first refrigerated luge run in 1979. In the same time frame, USA Luge was formed as the sport's National Governing Body (NGB).

Since its inception, USA Luge has overseen the selection and preparation of the U.S. National and Olympic luge teams. In addition, a national network of luge clubs, as well as a comprehensive recruitment program, has also been developed, giving USA Luge improved depth at every level of participation.

These commitments have seen the American team grow from an international curiosity to a world power in the sport of luge. More recently, the U.S. team earned its highest finishes in Olympic history with silver and bronze medal results in both the 1998 XVIII Nagano, Japan, and 2002 XIX Salt Lake City, Utah Olympic Winter Games. During the 2006 XX Torino, Italy Olympic Winter Games, USA Luge posted its highest-ever women’s singles finish, fourth, while also matching its best-ever men’s singles finish, also fourth, from four years earlier.

In 2010, the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver saw high-speed races on the fastest track in Olympic history. With speeds approaching 90 miles per hour, the USA's top result was a sixth place doubles effort by Christian Niccum and Dan Joye.

But four years later in Sochi, Russia, Erin Hamlin broke through on several fronts. Hamlin, the 2009 World Champion, scored a bronze medal in singles. This was the fifth Olympic medal for USA Luge and the first ever in singles. In addition, Hamlin became the first American woman to step onto the Olympic luge podium. And when she stood second after the first heat of the Olympic race, it marked the best opening run singles performance in team history.

The U.S. squad will try to add to their Olympic legacy when the 2018 Olympic Winter Games are held in PyeongChang, Korea. Until then, however, there are many World Cup races to enter and World Championships each season.

There are now two artificially refrigerated tracks in the United States. The 1979 Lake Placid edition used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games was demolished and replaced with a combined luge/bobsled/skeleton track that opened in Feb. 2000. The second facility opened in 1997 in Park City, Utah and was used for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Additionally, a short un-refrigerated track exists in Muskegon, Mich., while a "Natural" track course exists in Negaunee, Mich.

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