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What is luge?

U.S. luger Emily Sweeney was taken to the hospital after a crash at the women’s singles competition during the Winter Olympics on Tuesday. With speeds up to 90 mph, luge is one of the most dangerous sports in the Olympic Games.

Luge is similar to skeleton but with athletes sliding down with their face up and feet first. This high-speed sport requires good upper-body strength and efficient navigation of the course. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.

cover photo: Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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Athletes begin in a sitting position and grab the handles on either side of the track.

International Luge Federation

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Next they launch themselves forward, using their hands to gain speed.

International Luge Federation

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Then they lie back on their sleds and whip down the track.

International Luge Federation

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The sled has no brakes or steering mechanism. Racers steer by using their calves to apply pressure to a runner or moving their shoulders to shift their weight.

International Luge Federation

Speed depends on weight, so petite athletes can make up for less body mass by carrying weights, up to 13 kilograms (28.7 pounds) for men and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) for women.

Wong Maye-E/Associated Press

Competitive luge racing started in Switzerland in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1964 that luge made its Olympic debut in Austria. At the 2018 Games, there are four events in luge — men's singles, women's singles, doubles and team relay.

Arnd Wiegmann/Associated Press

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Singles competitions consist of four runs over two days, while in doubles competitions (as shown in the video) athletes take two runs on one day.

International Luge Federation

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The team relay has three legs: a men’s singles sled, a women’s singles sled and a doubles sled. After the first sled hits the finish pad to signal that the run is completed, the next sled begins.

International Luge Federation

Once competitors finish the final run, the athlete or team with the fastest aggregate time wins.

According to the Team USA website, luge is the only sliding sport measured to the thousandth of a second. The average run, the website says, has a vertical drop of 30 stories.

All that, remember, without brakes. Catch the final two luge events on Feb. 14 and 15.