Winter Olympics: Doubles luge is raising a lot of questions, and we have answers

Luge is a pretty simple sport. A person lies flat on their back and subjects themselves to super fast speeds going down a slope of ice. It's irresponsible, dangerous, and it can end poorly. It's also really fun to watch. But what's better than luge? Double the luge! Welcome to the wonderful weird world of doubles luge, where riders give their lives and Olympic hopes to someone else completely in a grand display of trust. So instead of just wiping yourself out, you have a partner. Misery does love company, after all.

Double luge was airing on Valentine's Day, romance was in the air, and people seemed to have a lot of questions about why one guy was lying on top of the other one.

Here's the crazy thing about doubles luge: It's basically exactly the same as luge, with a few notable differences. For instance, the sleds are slightly heavier in doubles luge (55-66 pounds, up from 46-55 pounds in singles) ... and that's basically it. It's just luge -- only one guy is lying on top of another. A lot sports have really specific rules for doubles. Luge is not one of those sports. It literally only exists because at some point in time, one guy looked at another guy while they were about to go luging and said "hey, wanna go together?"

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The idea is actually pretty simple: Don't mess up. The crashes in doubles luge are usually spectacular, as both racers just try to get untangled as quickly as possible.

Here's an excerpt from Ron Judd's spectator's guide to luge in The Seattle Times: "Doubles luge teams sit tightly bunched, with the heavier slider or 'rear driver' on the top, or rear, of the sled and the lighter, front 'driver' nestled between his legs."

The use of the word "nestled" is the absolute best here. However, where things get bizarre is when we start talking about the weight requirements. Obviously gravity is harsher on heavier objects, so Judd described the weight requirements of the riders.

There is no weight limit per se for the athletes, but the total weight of the sled and its driver(s) is tightly controlled; lighter athletes often add supplemental weights to their bodies—under a complicated, prescribed formula—to hit the maximum allowances. Doubles lugers, for example, are allowed up to 180 kilograms, or 396 pounds, of weight between them. And yes, officials do check: Sleds and sliders are weighed in after each run.

This is why you don't see offensive lineman-sized guys riding the sleds (in doubles or singles). It takes a lot of technique to control them, and the advantage wouldn't be that significant.

Is doubles luge romantic? In a way, I'd imagine. You'd have to be really comfortable with someone to put your life in their hands while going down at the speeds they're going. Lugers are, frankly, a little insane. That goes double for doubles, because to put yourself in a death trap like that and entrust an entirely separate set of responsibilities to an entirely separate person takes a new degree of Evel Knievel genetics. However, that's what Valentine's Day is all about. Taking risks with those you care about. And maybe winning a gold medal while doing it.

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