95mph On A Tea Tray: Luge and Skeleton at Sochi

Winter Olympics, Sochi 2014

Skeleton & Luge


Sanki Sliding Centre


Men’s Luge – 8-9 February (finals 4:40pm on 9th)

Women’s Luge – 10-11 February (finals 4:20pm on 11th)

Doubles Luge – 12 February (finals 3:45pm)

Team Relay Luge – 13 February (finals 4:15pm)

Women’s Skeleton – 13-14 February (finals 4:50pm on 14th)

Men’s Skeleton – 14-15 February (finals 4:15pm on 15th)

The Sport

The classic ‘tea-tray’ events, the skeleton and luge should evoke memories of flying down a local snow-covered hill on a tray stolen from your mum’s cupboard. The athletes at Sochi will be taking things slightly more seriously, but the sports themselves are not a lot more high-tech – the sleds used have no brakes and are steered solely by shifting body weight. The main difference is that athletes travel headfirst and on their stomach in the skeleton, and feet-first and on their backs in the luge.

‘Sliders’ and ‘lugers’, as they are known, can experience forces of up to 5G as they hurtle down a 1,814 metre track, with top speeds of roughly 75mph in the skeleton and 95mph in the luge.

The Favourites

In the luge, the competition appears to be the Germans to lose. When asked how the favourite Felix Loch could lose in Sochi, his American rival Chris Mazdzer replied simply: “He crashes”. And for Natalie Geisenberger, German World Cup winner? “Same exact way.” Out of the 117 luge medals awarded in the Winter Olympics to date, Germany have won 70.

David Moller, another German is a medal chance, whilst Italian luger Armin Zoggeler provides the closest threat. In the women’s competition, team-mate Tatjana Hufner is expected to provide the sternest test for Geisenberger, whilst record-breaking Canadian Alex Gough is in with a shout.

Skeleton was only added to the Olympic program in 2002, and the United States lead the way in the medal table with six. Canada and Great Britain are close behind with five.

In the men’s competition, a shoot-out between the Latvian Martins Dukurs and Russian Alexander Tretiakov is expected, although the elder Dukurs brother, Tomass,will hope to spring a surprise. In the women’s competition, two of the top three favourites are British – but more on them below. American Noelle Pikus-Pace has a real shot at the gold medal, and Anja Huber will be hopeful for a podium place.

British Hopes


It’s the women’s skeleton where the British hopes lie, with big things expected from favourite Lizzy Yarnold after her World Cup win two weeks ago. Shelley Rudman is reigning skeleton world champion and is looking to better her silver medal at the 2006 Games in Turin. Kristen Bromley will be looking to improve on his sixth place in the 2010 Games in the men’s competition, whilst Dominic Parsons will hope to impress at his first over Olympics.

In the luge, we’ve got… erm no-one. Sorry.

Jonnie Barnett

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