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luge


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Ernest Hemingway (1899—1961) American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist

 

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A form of tobogganing for two-person crews or single riders, in which the riders sit in a backward-leaning position on the ice sled. The first organized international competition was held in Davos, Switzerland, in 1883. British tourists had developed sled racing on snowed-up Alpine roads from the mid 19th century: luge was one of these, along with (Cresta Run) tobogganing, and bobsleigh. Ernest Hemingway, writing for the Toronto Star Weekly, observed the British and the Swiss at play on their luges in March 1922: ‘Luge…is a short, stout sled of hickory built on the pattern of little girls' sleds in Canada’, he wrote, and reported that ‘all of Switzerland, from old grandmothers to street children’, would flock to the mountains on a Sunday to make mountain descents on their ‘little elevated pancakes’. A particularly steep and dangerous run between Chamby and Montreux attracted daring Britons and Hemingway captured the ‘wonderful sight’ of the former military governor of Khartoum speeding into Montreux, ‘cherubic smile on his face’, and welcomed by the cheers of the town's children. Hemingway concluded his piece: ‘It is easy to understand how the British have such a great Empire after you have seen them luge.’

A first European championships had been held in Austria in 1914, but the competitive profile of the sport really took off in the 1930s, with the invention of the flexible sled. At its 1954 meeting in Athens, the International Olympic Committee granted formal recognition to luge, identifying it as the successor to skeleton/Cresta Run tobogganing on the Olympic programme. A world championship was inaugurated in Oslo in 1955, and the International Luge Federation formed in 1957 (luge had previously shared an international federation with bobsleigh). In 1964, at Innsbruck, luge made its debut at the Olympics, where the dominant competitive nations have been Austria, Germany (both the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany), Italy, and the former USSR.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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