One of the most appealing things about luge is its name. Luge. It almost sounds onomatopoetic, like a sled whooshing down an icy track. (It’s actually a Swiss term for a small sled.)
And then there’s doubles luge. Is that one person just lying on top of the other person as they race down the icy track? Yeah, pretty much.
They’ve been lugeing in the Olympics since 1964. A lot of people remember back in the 1970s when some lugers wore conehead style helmets to gain an aerodynamic advantage. Those helmets are no longer allowed.
The start of the race is vital. The lugers push off with their hands as they sit facing forward on the sled and try to get going as fast as possible, aided by gloves that have spikes to grip the ice and propel the sled forward. They steer with their calves as they shoot around the corners of the course.
It can be a dangerous sport. In 2010 in Vancouver, the day before the Olympic competition began, Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia flew off the track in a training run and crashed into a steel beam. He was killed.
Luge added a new event in 2010, the team relay. Each country sends one man, one woman and one men’s double down the course, one after the other. As each one reaches the finish, they reach up and slap a board, which opens a gate to send the next racer down. The total time of all three runs determines the winners.
Felix Loch of Germany won the gold medal in men’s singles in 2010 and 2014 and was in the mix for a three-peat this year. Germans could also win the women’s singles race with Natalie Geisenberger, as well as the men’s doubles and the team relay. Women’s doubles is not yet an Olympic event.
Summer Britcher of the United States has a World Cup win this season. Americans have five Olympic luge medals, all in women’s singles, but no golds.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.