Posted: Fri February 20, 1998 at 5:19 AM ET
Q: In two-man luge, who steers the sled -- and how?
Answer from TNT expert Tim Singer: In doubles luge, steering is performed by both athletes. The slider on the bottom uses the sled runners, while both athletes use shoulder and hip movements to help steer. I'd like to add that the event is not called two-man luge. It's actually called doubles luge for good reason: it's open to everyone--men's teams, women's teams, or coed teams. It just so happens that to date, a pair of men can get a more explosive start and carry a larger, and thus faster weight down the track.
Q: I was noticing this evening during the doubles luge the back man was pulling on an elastic strap that the top man had connected to his hands. I was wondering what exactly is its purpose? Because it is used at the start, why not simply put another pull handle for the back man? It seems that the start would be more effective, with both men pulling. Thanks!
Answer from Singer: I'm impressed with how closely you must have been watching the luge competition. The elastic strap is used for exactly what it appears to be used for - to allow the bottom man to hold on to something, while the top man pulls off. To have a second set of pull bars would radically alter the tradition of this sport. Naturally, the straps don't give them any faster start, but i does allow the bottom man to stay upright, in order to help with the all-important paddle. This is just one many reasons why doubles is considered the most demanding discipline in luge.
Q:As an electrical engineer I am very curious of what time measurement system(s) is used to determine the luge winner especially when the differences are a few thousands of a second. How do the Olympic officials test and calibrate the time measurement system to ensure accuracy, time resolution, and repeatability of measurements? What time standards are used to calibrate the system and how often are they calibrated? What type of sensors are used to trigger the measurements when the sled starts and crosses the finish line. What are time delays associated with sending the signal from the sensor to the computer. Electrical signals take time to move from one point to another over a transmission media (wire, fiber optics, radio link). Are changes in ambient temperature taken into account when these measurements are made as it effects many parameters.
David K. Wolfe
Answer from Singer:The timing for bobsled and luge is much more basic than all of the variables implied and suggested in your message. There are electric eyes located at fixed spots along the track. The first is generally located a few meters from where the athletes push, or pull, off, depending on the sport. The "intermediate" splits are at random spots along the track, at the designer's choosing. To date, these electric eyes, in particular the finish eye, have proven accurate and adequate to the competitors, regardless of how tight the race is.
February 11 Mailbag
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