Olympic luge at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

The fastest of the three sliding sports at the Winter Olympics, the luge competition will be a spectacle of high adrenaline and athletic prowess. 

By Will Imbo

Luge is one of the three sliding sports on the programme at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, alongside the skeleton and bobsleigh. It is the fastest of the three, with athletes racing at speeds averaging 120–145 km/h.

There are 12 medals available in the luge competition at the Games.

Below we outline the top five things to know about luge at the Winter Olympics - including athletes to watch, the history of the sport, and more!

Top Olympic luge riders at Beijing 2022

Felix Loch (GER) is among the top names to look out for in Beijing, and with good reason. The German is a triple Olympic gold medalist (two golds in the singles, one in the team competition) and six-time world champion in the men's singles. Loch was on course to record his third successive Olympic gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the men's singles, but made a mistake on his final run and ended up finishing fifth.

He finished second at the 2021 World Championships in the singles, so he appears on course to redeem himself and claim another medal in Bejing.

2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher (AUT) stunned the luge world after winning gold in PyeongChang, but his performance at the 2021 World Championships, where he finished third in the men's singles and the men's sprint, suggests he won't be a one-hit-wonder.

2018 Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger (GER) remains a dominating force in the women's singles, and picked up a silver medal at the 2021 World Luge Championships in Königssee, Germany. With four gold medals and one bronze, the German is the most successful and decorated female Olympic luger in history. Now the question becomes, can she win a third successive gold medal in the women's singles in Beijing?

She will most likely be challenged by her teammates Dajana Eitberger (GER) (PyeongChang silver medalist and bronze medalist at the 2021 World Championships) and Julia Taubitz (GER) (2021 World Champion in the women's singles and women's sprint).

The doubles at the Olympics has been dominated by German pair Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (GER) in recent years, with the pair winning gold in Sochi (2014) and PyeongChang (2018). Like Geisenberger, they could make history in Beijing by becoming the first pair to win three consecutive gold medals in the doubles, and appear to be in fine form after finishing second at the World Championships in the men's doubles and winning the doubles' sprint.

The team relay is a relatively new addition to the Olympic programme after making its debut at Sochi 2014, but Germany - seemingly not satisfied with dominating the women's singles and doubles events - has picked up the last two golds in the competition. The most realistic challenge will likely come from Austria, the reigning World Champions in the event (Germany finished second, with Latvia third).

Olympic luge schedule at Beijing 2022

The luge competition will take place from 5 February - 10 February 2022.

Olympic luge venue at Beijing 2022

All sliding events will take place at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, located in the Xiaohaituo mountain area in Yanqing, located 74km north-west of the Chinese capital.

The track that will be used for the sliding events is the first of its kind in the world incle a 360-degree turn. The competition length of the track is 1615 meters, with a maximum gradient of 18% and 16 curves.

The venue has a seating capacity of 2,000 and a standing capacity of 8,000 for spectators.

Olympic luge competition format at Beijing 2022

The luge competition at the Winter Olympics features four events:

Men's Singles

Doubles

Women's Singles

Team Relay

A total of 106 quota spots are available for athletes to qualify to compete in luge at the Games.

In the singles competition, athletes compete on the same track, with each rider getting four runs over the course of two days. Those four rides are timed down to the hundredth of a second and the times added together. The athlete with the fastest total time is the winner.

The doubles competition takes place in a single day, with each pair getting two runs. Again, the pair with the fastest cumulative time wins the gold.

The team relay involves three sledges from a single National Olympic Committee (NOC): women’s singles, men’s singles and doubles. The women's sledge is the first to race, with the athlete striking an overhead touchpad at the bottom of the track which opens the gate and allows the next sledge (men's single) to begin. The men's double is the last sledge to race in the event. The winner is the team with the lowest time after all three sledges cross the finish line.

Olympic luge history

Just like the bobsleigh and skeleton, the origins of luge as a sport can be traced to Switzerland and the town of St Moritz. The first organized meeting of the sport took place in 1883 in Davos, Switzerland, with competitors racing along an icy 4km road between Davos and the village of Klosters.

In 1913, the Internationale Schlittensportverband or International Sled Sports Federation was founded in Dresden, Germany, which governed the sport until 1935. The organization was then incorporated into the Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT, International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation). Despite all this, the first World Championship for luge was only held in 1955 - 41 years after the first European Championships.

In 1957, the Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL, International Luge Federation) was founded, and in 1964 luge made its Olympic debut in Innsbruck. In 2014, a team relay event was added to the Olympic programme.

The Olympic discipline has been dominated by Germany, who have won 42 medals - excluding the 29 medals won by East Germany and 10 won by West Germany between 1968 and 1988. The next best nation is Austria, with 22 medals, followed by Italy, who have 17.

In fact, Germany has been so dominant in the event that the nation has swept the podium on two occasions - in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2006 (Turin), both in the women's singles. At Sochi 2014, Germany won gold in every event.

However, the athlete with the most Olympic medals in the sport is Italian Armin Zöggeler, who won six medals (including two golds). Yet Il Cannibale, as he is known, has retired from the sport, leaving the door open for Natalie Geisenberger to potentially claim two medals in Beijing and break his record.