Vancouver Games luge preview
German women have dominated luge -- they've never been shut out of medals
American Erin Hamlin could break through -- she stopped German streak at 99
Italy's Armin Zöggeler and Russia's Albert Demchenko will continue tense rivalry
SI.com's writers will preview each event from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Here's Brian Cazeneuve's look ahead to luge.
This is the fastest sport on ice. Lugers reach speeds of more than 90 miles an hour. And speeds will be fast in Whistler, where the sliding sports will be held. Though members of the U.S. team have said they don't feel the track is especially difficult to navigate because the turns are fairly standard and predictable, the good ice conditions and course construction allow for very high speeds. The Whistler track is probably the fastest in the world. If you've ever thought of flooring it on an icy expressway, it might look like this.
Athletes to watch
Any of the German women. They're at the top of the sport and may well sweep the medals in Vancouver. So far this season, two Germans have traded victories for most of the World Cup circuit: Tatjana Hüfner, who won the overall title and six of eight races in 2008-09 and Natalie Geisenberger, the 21-year-old who is ready to take over the sport. The Germans have swept all six medals over the last two Games and they have never been shut out of the medals at any Olympics.
Erin Hamlin is the reigning world champion in the event, having won the competition on her home track in Lake Placid, N.Y., last year. Hamlin's victory stopped a German win streak of 99 consecutive races, including worlds and Olympics. She hasn't reached that plateau since the worlds, but has managed two third-place finishes in recent races in Europe. Also look out for old reliables Brian Martin and Mark Grimmette in the double event. This will be Grimmette's fifth Olympics, including four with Martin as his partner, and the team has already won silver and bronze at previous Games.
Italy's Armin Zöggeler and Russia's Albert Demchenko have been going slide-for-slide on the circuit for much of the year. Zöggeler, "Il Cannibale," has won five world titles and has captured four Olympic medals. At 36, he's eyeing a repeat Olympic gold. Demchenko, the man who took silver in Turin by .11 seconds, is his closest rival. These will be the fifth Olympics for Demchenko, 38. He was the last man, other than Zöggeler, to win the overall World Cup crown, which he did in '05.
Bet you didn't know
Because it takes so long to learn how to steer the sled properly, with deft movements of the feet, coaches take longer to allow developing lugers to start from the top of the start run than, say, skeleton athletes or bobsledders. The skill involved is barely tapping the steering mechanisms is akin to learning the pitch of a musical instrument. Oh, and jokes about doubles luge aside, notice that there's usually one tall slider and one short one in each pair. The short one is on the bottom. Only men compete in doubles. Both men and women take past in singles events.