One of the new offerings at Steel City Blitz this offseason is coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The 23rd Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, beginning on Friday, February 9th. Over the week before the Games kick off, we will be previewing each of the 15 events that will comprise the Olympics. For many people, they only pay attention to some of these events once every four years, so consider this a quick refresher on how they work and who to watch for as the Olympics take over the sporting world for a fortnight in February.
You can check out all of our Winter Olympics event previews here.
Today’s preview covers Luge, one of the three sliding events along with Bobsled and Skeleton.
February 10: Men’s Singles runs 1 and 2
February 11: Men’s Singles runs 3 and 4
February 12: Women’s Singles runs 1 and 2
February 13: Women’s Singles runs 3 and 4
February 14: Men’s Doubles runs 1 and 2
February 15: Team Relay
Luge more or less started when one person told someone else they could sled to the bottom of the hill faster. Then when the loser went and got his big brother to add weight and experience to his sled, two-man luge was born. That’s pretty much the long and the short of this event. Luge can be one of the more dangerous events of the winter games as there isn’t much protection for the riders as they barrel down the track and try to navigate the turns at nearly 100 miles per hour. In addition to the traditional singles and doubles events, a team relay was been added in Sochi 2014. For the team relay, it will be a combination of a men’s single, women’s single and men’s double run through the course. Like with Bobsleigh, the Luge events consist of four runs through the course. Times are cumulative over all four runs and the athlete with the fastest total time wins.
If your country was an Axis Power in World War II, chances are you’re good at Luge. Even though Luge wasn’t officially an Olympic event until 1964, only 1 gold medal has been won by a non-Axis nation (USSR). The Germans are absolutely ludicrous at Luge, accounting for 58% of all Luge medals won. Germany (31 medals, 15 Golds), leads the pack followed by East Germany (29 medals, 13 Golds) and West Germany (10 medals, 1 Gold) and the Unified Team of Germany (5 medals, 2 Golds) accounting for other German medals. Austria (19 medals, 5 Golds) and Italy (17 medals, 7 Golds). Germans won all four Luge golds in Sochi 2014, including the first ever Team Event gold. Germany’s Felix Loch is the two-time defending Olympic Gold Medalist in Men’s singles and enters as the second-ranked slider in the world behind Russia’s Roman Repilov. However, it was Austria’s Wolfgang Kindl that upset both Loch and Repilov to win the World Championships last year. Fellow Germans Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hufner are the sliders to beat on the women’s side. Geisenberger won Gold at Sochi 2014 and Bronze at Vancouver 2010 while Hufner won Silver in Sochi, Gold in Vancouver, Bronze in Turin 2006 and is the reigning World Champion. In doubles, defending Olympic gold medalists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt are the second-ranked team in the world, behind fellow Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken. The Latvian team of brothers Andris and Juris Sics won silver in Vancouver and bronze in Sochi and is ranked in the Top 5 in the world.
Erin Hamlin is the fourth-ranked women’s slider in the world and is coming off a bronze medal in Sochi 2014. Hamlin also took second place at the 2017 World Championships and is the best American hope for a medal in Luge. Her bronze in Sochi was the first American medal in Luge since Salt Lake City 2002. Two other American women – Emily Sweeney (6th in the world) and Summer Birtcher (4th at World Championships) could make a run at the podium. The highest-ranked American men’s slider is Tucker West (7th in the world) but after a disappointing 15th-place finish at the World Championships he has work to do to threaten the podium this year. The men’s doubles team of Jayson Terdiman and Matthew Mortensen is currently ranked third in the world.