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Overview
The Olympic luge event was introduced in 1964 at Innsbruck-Igis, Austria. The word luge is French for "racing sled." Lugers careen down the course feet first while lying on their backs. The luge sled was originally controlled by a hand-held strap which guided the front of the runner. Now luges are steered by the lugers exerting pressure on the sides of the car with their feet and shoulders. Sliders have limited visibility because of their body position combined with speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Hairpin turns in the course and rules requiring one of the four runs to be run at night make this event one of the most dangerous in the Olympics. It is so dangerous, in fact, that in 1964 a Polish-born British slider named Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski was killed in a luge accident, and later, two other German lugers were severely injured. Several physical forces are demonstrated by a luge event. One is friction, the force that slows down moving objects when two surfaces rub together. Of course, the ice on the luge course minimizes the potential for friction on the surface. Lugers attempt to further reduce the force of friction by using the most slippery materials possible to construct the luge itself. The weight of the luger places pressure on the ice, melting it and creating a slippery layer of water that further reduces friction. But there are rules about overcoming friction. In 1968, the German Women's Olympic Team was disqualified for heating the runners on their sleds! Another physical force involved with luge is gravity. Gravity causes acceleration and helps the luge move. The forward motion is balanced by the friction of air pushing against the luge. Because of this air friction, designers must use aerodynamic principles to reduce the wind drag to a bare minimum. Often they use tight rubberized suits, special helmets with rounded face shields or smooth sleds designed with a low center of gravity.

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