Jeff Christie - Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014 07:05

Luge team relay is as easy as 4, 3, 2, 1

Breaking down a new Olympic event

Sam Edney
Canada's Sam Edney smacks the touch pad after his run in luge team relay. (File/Getty Images)

Team relay in luge? I know it sounds extreme, but it’s true, and the name accurately describes the rapid fire, combined-timed event making its Olympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

This is the type of event I would have loved to race when I was competing. It gives athletes another chance to win a medal, brings an individual sport and makes it a team one, and is just straight-out fun to race!

Let’s break down exactly what you can expect to see:

4 athletes, 3 sleds

Each country can enter one team, which consists of one women’s, one men’s, and one doubles sled.

2 exchanges

The first sled down the run is the women’s sled. She pulls a traditional start, however at the end of the run instead of a timing eye that stops the time there is a touch pad hanging in the outrun that she must sit up and hit with her fist.

This is the first of the two exchanges because as soon as she hits the touch pad, it opens a gate at the start where the men’s sled immediately pulls into the run.

The men’s slider also hits the touch pad upon completing his run, starting exchange No. 2, which opens the gate for the doubles sled to enter the run.

1 time

1 start height

The team relay is contested from the women’s and doubles start height.

This means that it is the first time the men have taken a run for this start height. Although it is a slower start height, it is nonetheless a challenge for men and the lack of training runs from the start height can play into the final results.

1 team

The team relay takes an individual sport and brings it into a true team sport. Any nation that has a weak discipline is thoroughly punished in their combined time.

Although the team relay has been a World Cup event for the past three years, this is its Olympic debut.

Key points to watch

As an educated spectator there are two points to focus on, apart from the sliding of each athlete, and they revolve around the exchange.

The first is the exchanges themselves. If a slider misses the touch pad at the finish or if the slider at the start pulls into the run before the gates opens, the team is disqualified.

The second aspect to watch is the “change time.” This time is measured from the time the previous slider hits the touch pad to when the next slider crosses the traditional start timing eye. Large amounts of time can be gained or lost during the exchange time.

The team relay by its design and intensity is sure to be a highlight of the 2014 Sochi games. Add to that the fact Team Canada has not missed a podium this year or in the past three world championship the results in Sochi could be historic for our nation.

Have more questions about luge? Engage with Jeff Christie on Twitter @christieluge

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