All I have to say about Luge is “Holy Crap”. Imagine going down an ice slope on a sled, on your back, feet first, reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour. You steer with your toes, lift your head just a bit to see where you are going. You stop by sitting up and lifting the front of the sled. Olympic Luge is safe, even considering the tragedy of February 12. The course is banked, with side barriers and straw bails in case of accident. There is an uphill run at the end to help the lugers stop. This year they moved the men’s start line down to the women’s start line. This actually reduced the top speed!

The luge should not be confused with the skeleton, which is a head first sled ride down the same ice slope. Still cool, but just not quite as cool as the luge. Maybe it is the name or just the fact that the skeleton positions is what I use when sledding.

I like the Luge on several levels. First, the athletes are not just kids. Their ages range from 18 to 40. Second, a little extra weight is a good thing. Momentum is the name of the game, the extra weight allows the luger to overcome any friction that the course provides. And third, you get more than one chance. There are at least 3 runs that are considered for the medals. The luger is all alone on the course, just man against hill. Spectators get just a split second of the race, like sitting on the shoulder of the interstate and watching a car go by.

I guess it is the speed that grabs my attention. I like bobsled and speed skating as well. The bobsled run looks a lot like the luge, but it is different. They share the same track, but two man and four man (and woman) bobsled are different from luge because they are team efforts.

Speed skating is just so elegant. With up to six skaters on the short track and two competitors on the long track, they seem to be dancing as they round the course. You are competing directly for advancement until the final run when medals are awarded. Skating you have to compete with other racers as well as the course. The slightest bump can be disastrous for you chances (the sides of the rink are padded to keep the skaters from getting hurt). The only danger of injury is the skates themselves. Speed skating skates are extremely sharp, to dig into the ice for turns. I have never seen an accident involving that kind of injury, and I hope I never do.

All of these sports epitomize the ideal of the Olympics. All can compete; men, women, young and old. They also help to break the monotony of winter as we move through February. Depending on where you live, February can be very depressing. In the north, it is the lack of sun, in the south, the dreary cold and rainy (this year snowy) days. The kids are in the middle of the school year, and the whole family is months away from a vacation. Yes, the Winter Olympics are a great thing.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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