What is the difference between luge and skeleton? Either way, both are terrifying

Who doesn’t love spending a snow day at the neighborhood sledding hill? If someone had told us early on that we could have made a career out of sledding, perhaps we would be at the Olympics right now as part of the U.S. Luge or Skeleton team. Although, both luge and skeleton are pretty different from regular old sledding, and from each other. With this is mind, we have to ask: What is the difference between luge and skeleton?

The difference between luge and skeleton is that with luge, competitors sled down the track on their backs whereas skeleton competitors sled on their stomachs. Mind you, they do so at speeds upwards of 90 mph. So yeah, sledding is literally child’s play compared to these sports.

Both sports have roots that date centuries back. The use of sleds and sleighs has honestly been a thing since humans first had to trek across the snow and ice. In the 19th century, Swiss hotel owners capitalized on the historic sport and built a sledding track for their thrill-seeking tourists, thus spawning what would later be called luge and skeleton.

Skeleton specifically got its start in a Switzerland village called St. Moritz. A Swiss resort housed the famous Cresta Run, the track on which skeleton was born. Men’s skeleton racing debuted in the 1928 St. Moretz Olympics and then later in the 1948 St. Moretz Olympics.

Skeleton disappeared from the Olympics after 1948, only to reappear in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Luge got a later start at the Olympics, having debuted in 1964. But since then, the program has not changed. It’s now considered the “Fastest Sport on Ice.”

The sleds used for luge and skeleton differ — lugers control their sleds with their calves via runners called kufens. Skeleton sleds are built without the longer runners and are controlled with the competitor’s head and shoulders. Both sports take place on the same Olympic track.

We greatly admire the Olympians who participate in luge and skeleton. Neither are easy sports to master. If any of you athletes out there ever need an understudy, we have mastered the hill in our next door neighbor’s yard, so…

  • By Olivia Harvey

Every four years, sports fans all over the world watch the Winter Olympics with a mixture of awe and trepidation. Some sports (curling, cross-country skiing) are relatively safe, without sacrificing excitement. Others, like luge and skeleton racing, seem like a fatal accident is only ever a millisecond away.

Luge and skeleton racing appear very similar to the casual observer: racers compete at high speed on sled-like vehicles. On closer inspection, though, there are a few important differences between these Olympic events. Continue reading to learn more about them.

What is the Difference Between Luge and Skeleton?

In this post, I will compare luge vs. skeleton racing. I will briefly outline each sport as well as the differences between each.

Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that will help you remember whether you are watching (or competing in) luge or skeleton racing.

When to Use Luge

What does luge mean? The word luge can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, luge means a small, lightweight sled for one or two people. It can also refer to events that involve racing these devices.

For example,

  • Kelly, Miranda, and Thomas went to the sports complex to practice for the luge tournament.
  • Jameson was surprised when his girlfriend came home with a $900 luge and announced that she was trying out for the US Olympic team.

As a verb, luge refers to the act of riding the sled.

A person who rides a luge is called a luger. Lugers ride on their backs with their feet facing forward, and steer by strategically pressing on the luge with their legs. In 2014, Team USA won its first medal in luge when Erin Hamlen won the bronze in the singles competition.

When to Use Skeleton Racing

What is skeleton racing? Skeleton racing is a related sport. It differs from luge in that, while luge can feature single riders or pairs, skeleton is always performed by a single rider. Skeleton racers lie face down on the sled and move face first down the hill.

Here are some example sentences,

  • The US Olympic team won a bronze medal in skeleton racing in 2014.
  • Skeleton bobsleds are easier to steer than luges, since they are heavier and slower.

Skeleton became an Olympic event in 1928. It appeared only one other time before 2002, when it became a permanent fixture in the Olympic program.

Trick to Remember the Difference

These words refer to two related but distinct sports.

  • Lugers compete as singles or duos, and race on their backs.
  • Skeleton racers compete only as singles, and race on their stomachs.

Since skeleton and stomach each begin with the letter S, it is easy to recall the position skeleton racers adopt during competitions.

Summary

Is it skeleton or luge? Luge and skeleton racing are both Olympic events. They involve fast downhill racing on a sled.

To summarize,

  • Skeleton racers lie facedown on their sleds.
  • Lugers lie face-up and may also compete in pairs.

If you are a sportswriter or even simply an Olympic spectator, it pays to know the differences between these events.

Here’s How You Can Tell the Differences Between Luge, Bobsled and Skeleton

For Winter Games rookies, the differences between the sledding events – luge, bobsled (or bobsleigh) and skeleton – can get blurry, just like a luger shooting past at 90 miles an hour.

The sledding events, however, are amongst the most exciting and potentially dangerous sports in the Winter Olympics, the high speeds and risks undertaken by the competitors making the events compelling viewing for spectators and viewers at home.

American luger Emily Sweeney’s terrifying crash during the final heat at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Tuesday, after which she was taken to hospital, showed just how quickly things can go wrong.

“If you are a luge athlete, you give your entire life to this sport,” American luger Chris Mazdzer, who refers to luging as “ultimate sledding”, told CNBC.

And following Mazdzer’s silver medal win in luge last Sunday, the first luge medal of any kind for Team USA, there’s never been a better time to get into sledding.

Here’s what to know about the difference between the sledding disciplines:

What is Luge?

Sascha Benecken and Toni Eggert of Germany celebrate during the doubles luge final at the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 14, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Sliding feet first down an icy track with only a helmet for protection, luging is not for the faint hearted.

Participants, who can compete in singles and doubles, hurtle down the track against the clock at 90 miles an hour on sleds that weighs just 50 pounds. Competitors can only change direction by angling their bodies.

Luge races are also one of the “most precisely timed sports” at the Games, timed to one thousandth of a second, according to the the PyeongChang 2018 official website.

The sport debuted at the Olympics in 1964, and is noted for its dangerous reputation: at the 2010 Vancouver Games, a day before the competitions began, Nodar Kumaritashvili, Georgia, was killed during a training run after flying off a track and crashing into a steel beam.

Doubles luging, although as equally dangerous as the singles, can appear comic at first: two participants lie on the sled, with one on top of the other, as they navigate their way down the course. The mens’ doubles, won by Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt for the second time in a row, threatened to break the internet.

Mazdzer’s silver medal was Team USA’s first medal in the sport, although the sport has been dominated by Germany in recent games.

What is Bobsled?

Dawid Kupczyk drives Poland’s bobsled during Bobsleigh training. EMPICS Sport

Featured in the movie Cool Runnings, bobsledders compete in teams at the Olympics. The start, as with most of the sledding events, is crucial – racers run alongside the sled, pushing the handles before jumping into the sled. It’s the fastest of the three sledding sports, an competitors can reach up to 125 miles per hour.

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The 2018 PyeongChang Games saw a series of firsts for the sport: Nigeria’s first-ever bobsled team, and Jamaica’s first women’s bobsled team.

The Jamaican women’s team followed in the footsteps of the iconic men’s team, who debuted in 1988 on the winter stage (and inspired Cool Runnings). However, their first Olympic contest hasn’t been without its share of drama. After the sudden departure of the team’s driver coach Sandra Kiriasis left the team without a sled, Jamaican beer company offered them a new sled.

The first bobsled event of the Games this year will be the two-man race, which takes place Feb. 19.

What is Skeleton?

Sungbin Yun of Korea celebrates winning the Men’s Skeleton in Pyeongchang, South Koreaon Feb. 16, 2018. Richard Heathcote—Getty Images

Just as its name suggests, skeleton is a frightening sport. As in luge, participants compete on a single flat sled. The difference is that they travel down the icy course headfirst, lying on their stomach.

What makes the experience even scarier is that competitors stay aerodynamic by keeping their head down, their face barely an inch from the ice moving beneath them at 80 miles an hour.

It’s been around since 1884, when it was first tried out at St Moritz, according to CNN. It was first introduced at the 1928 Olympics, but the sport wasn’t fully integrated into the Olympics until 2002 when it was reintroduced, as it was previously considered too dangerous.

Why is the sport called skeleton? There’s some disagreement about that, according to the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation. The name could be inspired by the skeleton-like shape of early sleds, or perhaps it’s an attempt at pronouncing “kjaelke,” the Norwegian word for “ice sled,” notes NBC Olympics.

Sungbin Yun of Korea won gold in Friday’s men’s competition, where Team Great Britain also won their first medal of the Games, when Dom Parsons hurtled to a dramatic bronze win.

You can watch the women’s on Feb. 17. The favourites include Germany’s Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann -first and second in the women’s rankings respectively – and Great Britain’s defending gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold.

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Skeleton:technique

Technique: the start and the drive

A skeleton race is made up of two phases with very two different techniques. To reach the podium, the athlete must successfully master both:

The start

Races can be won and lost at the starting line, so making a fast start is crucial. Athletes need pace, power and skill to get the sled moving as quickly as possible before they leap on.

The start is the most crucial part of the race: competition is usually so strong that without a good start (usually within a tenth of a second of the fastest time) finishing first becomes almost impossible. The aim for the athlete is to push their sled as fast as they can over 20-30 metres before leaping on board.

  • The athletes push the sled as fast as they can over a distance of 65m from a standing start
  • The clock doesn’t start until the crew hit the 15m mark
  • A spilt time is given for 50m (65m from the standing start and 50m from when the clock starts)

The key here is explosive strength and power. The spikes on the bottom of the athlete’s shoes are really important because they give the athlete grip on the ice so that they can push with maximum power in every stride.

Once the athlete is given the green light to go, they must position their sled into one of two grooves on the track, called ‘spurs’. These spurs guide the sled into a straight line and stop them from sliding across the track or slowing down.

The athlete pushes off with one hand on the sled (which hand they choose is up to them). They must reach the first timing marker, at 50m, within 30 seconds or they’ll be disqualified. This is rarely a problem for the top athletes, who usually cover the first 50m in just five seconds or less while racing to speeds of more than 40km/h.

The athletes will have their own techniques and routines, such as the way they choose to stand, when they take off their warm clothes and when they put on their helmet.

The drive

Once the athlete is on the sled, they’ll need complete focus and fast reflexes to negotiate each twist and turn at maximum speed.

If the athlete has made a good start over the first 50m, he or she should now have found the most aerodynamic position on the sled and be ready to negotiate the first turn.

It won’t take long for them to hit top speed, which can be up to 140km/h, and experience the force of 5Gs (or five times the force of gravity).

Their feet and head hang over the sled, and their chin is just centimetres from the ice. On particularly high-speed corners, the athlete’s chin will actually touch and scrape the ice. This can be tricky for the athlete because it obscures their vision. As a result, they’ll have to ‘feel their way’ around the corner until the g-pressure is reduced and they can lift their chin.

Steering

To steer the sled, athletes can either…

  • shift their bodyweight in the direction they want to turn
  • use their knees or shoulders to put downward pressure on one of the corners of the sled
  • reach out and tap a toe on the ice in the direction they want to turn

When they’re travelling at such high speeds, even moving their head will change the direction of the air flowing past them and force the sled to move.

Reflexes

Although the athlete will do their best to learn every corner of the track before they race, lightning-fast reflexes are needed to get the sled into the best position to enter and exit a corner at speed. Failing to find the perfect line will slow them down and just the slightest error could cost them a place on the podium.

Skeleton at the Winter Olympics

Skeleton is by most accounts the most reckless of all the Winter Olympic sports. Competitors race head first down an ice-covered track lying with their stomachs against a flat sled. Thanks to the streamlined sleds and body positions the competitors frequently reach speeds of 75 mph and experience up to 5Gs of gravitational force.

The sport started in 19th century Switzerland — as did most of the sledding sports. In the case of skeleton, the actual inspiration was a toboggan course that was built by English soldiers between their posts at Davos and Klosters. This course was different from traditional toboggan courses because of its steep angles and tight turns. Years later, a flat sled that resembled a human skeleton was designed for this type of course — which is how the sport got its name.

Skeleton remained a primarily Swiss sport until the early 20th century when it began spreading across Europe. Although Skeleton was included in the 1928 and 1948 Olympics, it was not given permanent status as an Olympic sport until 2002.

The skeleton racers use the same track as both bobsleigh racers and lugers. Skeleton racers begin by running with their sleds down the track for 30 to 40 feet and then throwing themselves onto the sleds as they take off down the track. Competitors lie on the sled with their arms tight against their sleds.

The flat skeleton sled has no form of steering or braking. To control the sled, the racers use subtle weight shifts in their heads and bodies. To slow down, they drag their feet on the ice. As the competition continues the track has a tendency to get rutted and choppy; consequently, the racers who come later in the lineup tend to pull slightly slower times.

Not every country can compete in the Olympic skeleton competition. Countries must participate in the World Cup events first. The men’s Olympic event includes only the racers from the top 12 World Cup countries, while racers from the top 8 countries participate in the women’s competition.

WinterOlympics2018

The spectacle of human bodies on an ice track, hurtling headfirst at speeds of up to 90 m.p.h., can make skeleton unsettling enough merely to watch. For the athletes, it’s even more extreme. Each of the three phases of a run comes with its own punishing demands.

A run in skeleton — a relatively new Olympic sport that, after featuring in the 1928 and 1948 games, hibernated for almost six decades before re-emerging in 2002 — begins with a burst of adrenaline-fueled, track-and-field intensity. Athletes push their sled frantically for about 50 meters and then leap aboard for the descent. It’s their one chance to generate velocity before gravity takes over.

“Our engine is our push at the start,” says Dave Greszczyszyn, Canada’s top-ranked male skeleton athlete. It’s a pretty awkward way to run, he adds — Greszczyszyn, who is 6-foot-3, must race as fast as possible crouched over, with one hand pushing a sled that itself weighs a full 70 pounds. To keep from slipping, he wears shoes with hundreds of fine, needlelike spikes. “Your hamstrings are working at both ends,” he says.

Illustration by Tatsuro Kiuchi

Straightaways

The margin of victory is typically mere hundredths of a second. As a result, “skeleton is a sport of ‘Who makes the fewest mistakes?’” says Katie Tannenbaum, a skeleton athlete from the Virgin Islands.

That means packing your body down as aerodynamically as possible onto the sled. Because the helmet and shoulders produce most of the air resistance, athletes tuck their head down until it’s nearly touching the ice — while simultaneously arching their eyesight upward, so they can see where they’re going. “It’s really uncomfortable,” Tannenbaum says. “Try doing it for more than a few seconds.” Meanwhile, she’s also flattening her shoulders down on the sled.

Unlike a bobsled, a skeleton sled has no steering mechanism; it’s just a metal frame covered with carbon fiber with runners. To change direction, athletes shift their body with their knees and shoulders, altering the center of gravity and flexing the board slightly. The smallest of perturbations can have a significant effect.

“There are even times when I just use my eyes,” Tannenbaum notes — that tiny movement can alter her posture enough to steer. “Where you look, you go,” she says. If she needs a more drastic change of direction, she’ll touch her toes to the ice, typically done only during turns. The goal is to steer as little as possible in the straightaways, because any steering will — however slightly — slow the sled.

The ride looks smooth. But it’s a teeth-rattling ordeal. “You’re so close to the ice that any little bump, you feel it,” Tannenbaum says.

Illustration by Tatsuro Kiuchi

Turns

Corners are where skeleton racing is the most physically brutal. A tight turn can produce G-forces, or “pressures,” of up to five times normal. (For perspective, consider that astronauts lifting off on a rocket experience only about three G-forces.) “We compare it to a contact sport,” says Matt Antoine, a member of this year’s U.S. Olympic skeleton team. Part of the challenge is how quickly the pressures hit: In a few milliseconds, your head suddenly feels as heavy as a bowling ball, and keeping it upright — and away from the ice — is a struggle.

“When you go right through a corner with four to five Gs of pressures, it’s instantaneous,” Antoine says. “People smack their faces on the ice, concussions happen.” The shoulders, too, are beaten up as they hit the ice.

In the corners, the G-forces are trying to push the sled as high as possible. But going up too far wastes energy — so Antoine fights to keep his sled low, in order to harness the curve’s momentum and slingshot out at an angle ideal for entering the next turn. Each skeleton track has a theoretically “perfect” route, with optimal angles of entry and exit for each turn, which the athletes aim for but never quite achieve.

The sport beats you up. Fighting the G-forces quickly wears down the neck muscles, while the vibrations and impacts leave the rest of the body sore. The need to make constant, split-second decisions at high speed leaves athletes psychologically depleted, too.

“You pretty much never do more than three tracks a day,” Antoine says. “You can’t handle it.”

Skeleton is an apt name for what looks like the most terrifying Winter Olympics event. But despite the confusing name, the sport is pretty simple: Racers take a running start, and then hurtle down an icy track on a sled. Oh, and they do it headfirst.

While we know what to expect when it comes to events like skiing or figure skating, skeleton is still a mystery, even to many avid Olympics watchers. Below, we’ve rounded up what you need to know about the sport—so you don’t have to waste time Googling as you watch the Games.

1. Skeleton and luge are siblings but not twins.

Both luge and skeleton require riders to dash down an ice track. Both are single-person sports, but skeleton has one key difference: Riders race headfirst, with both face and feet lifted just millimeters off the track. Luge riders go down feet first. A skeleton sled weights about 70 pounds and has no brakes or steering mechanism—it’s simply a metal frame covered with carbon fiber—which forces the rider to steer with just her body. The good news? Both sports require helmets.

2. Skeleton is much more complicated than just throwing yourself down a hill.

OK, at the end of the day, it is technically throwing yourself down a hill. But sliders train to give themselves advantages, which are crucial as races are usually won by a few hundredths of a second. Sliders take a running start of about 50 meters before hopping onto the sled. The speed of the sprint is important, because it helps athletes build momentum to race down the track even faster.

To get in position on the sled, sliders tuck their chins as close to the ice as possible without actually resting on the ground, all while having to look up to see in front of them. “It’s really uncomfortable,” skeleton athlete Katie Tannenbaum told The New York Times. “Try doing it for more than a few seconds.” To steer, athletes adjust their knees and shoulders, which alters their center of gravity and slightly shifts the board. But since any change in momentum will slow down the sled, it’s best to steer as little as possible.

3. The sport was invented in Switzerland.

Skeleton was born in the winter sport mecca of St. Moritz, Switzerland. According to Thrillist, the creepy-sounding name may come from the fact that the sled is so thin that it resembles an actual human skeleton. The first skeleton track (also in Switzerland, of course) was built in 1884, but the sport didn’t enter the winter Olympics until the St. Moritz games in 1928. It’s only been a permanent Olympic event since the Salt Lake City games in 2002.

4. To win, you just have to cross the finish line first.

Unlike the complicated scoring system involved in figure skating or moguls skiing, the winner in a skeleton race is simply the person with the fastest time. Since timing usually comes down to hundredths of a second, sliders do everything they can to sprint quickly at the beginning and avoid steering shifts throughout. An entire skeleton ride is typically less than a minute, so the phrase “every second counts” means everything to these athletes.

5. The U.S. has won the most skeleton medals of any country.

Twenty-one nations sent skeleton teams to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Seven of those nations (Belgium, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Netherlands, Nigeria, and Ukraine) are first-time Olympic skeleton entrants. As for Team USA, Thrillist reports that we have the most Olympic medals in skeleton of any country competing—eight in total, three of which are gold.

In PyeongChang, keep your eyes peeled for Simidele Adeagbo, a Nigerian former track and field athlete who picked up a sled for the first time in November 2017. Three months later, she qualified for the Winter Games, making her Nigeria’s (and Africa’s) first-ever female Olympic skeleton athlete. She’s also the first black female athlete to compete in the skeleton event in the Winter Olympics.

Skeleton events will continue throughout the rest of the week. Catch the two final men’s runs on Thursday, February 15, starting at 7:30 P.M. EST; the first two women’s runs on Friday, February 16, starting at 6:20 A.M. EST; and the two final women’s runs on Saturday, February 17, starting at 6:20 A.M. EST.

Related:

  • 6 Training Habits of Olympic Alpine Skier Mikaela Shiffrin
  • A Day in the Life of an Olympic Ice Dancing Duo
  • Here’s How to Watch All the Figure Skating Events in Winter Olympics 2018

Luge vs. Skeleton Racing: What’s the Difference?

Photo: Lars Baron / Staff / Getty Images

Most people are probably familiar with the big-hit sports and athletes of the Winter Olympics (such as skiing, snowboarding, hockey). But this year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang are providing an opportunity to get to know some of the lesser-known athletes-and also sports that don’t make so many headlines the rest of the year. (Keep an eye out for these 12 female athletes who are totally badass and these Team USA hotties who are basically melting the snow around them.)

Two of the most underrated sports? Luge and skeleton racing. And, no, you’re not the only one thinking, “What the heck is the difference between the two?”

The two sports are very similar, including the fact that they are nerve-racking to watch (seriously, have you ever seen a skeleton racer zoom down an icy track with his or her face literally millimeters from the ground?). They’re both typically single-person sports (though lugers can work in pairs) and both are sports of speed that require lightning-fast reflexes. Times are tracked by the one-hundredth of a second, and the riders with the lowest scores win. Drivers are trying to move “cleanly” through the track, because bumping into the sides of the track and clanging around will only slow them down.

The main difference between the two sports is that lugers zoom down the track feet-first on a curved fiberglass sled, with face and feet up. Skeleton racers race on their stomachs, facing forward. Additionally, their sleds are much heavier and thinner. Interestingly enough, skeleton racing is thought to be the safer of the two sports because it’s easier for skeleton racers to use very fine movements to control their sled, thus lessening the chance of accidents. Lugers primarily steer by pressing their legs on fiberglass “runners” at the base of the sled. Neither sled includes brakes, though, and the sports are both known as being very dangerous. Lastly, there are two skeleton racing events in the Olympics (individual men’s and women’s) while there are four luge events (men’s singles, women’s singles, doubles, and relay). (Next up: 5 Extreme Winter Sports That Put Skiing to Shame)

Sound insane? Not to U.S. skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace (who’s known as the “fastest mom on ice” and scored a silver medal at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games). She started out as a track and field athlete, then moved to bobsledding, then finally found her home in skeleton racing. When asked why she was drawn to the sport, she said, “I fell in love with it. I stuck with it…the thrill of going 80 to 90 miles an hour, headfirst on your stomach with your chin just an inch off the ice…how could you not like it?”

Tempting-but we’ll stick with winter hikes and fat biking, instead.

  • By Alanna Nuñez and Lauren Mazzo

As you oooh, ahhh and wince over different Winter Olympic events, do you find a host of questions running through your mind about weird sleds, weird skates and weird injuries? We’ve got your burning Sochi questions covered here!

These luge, skeleton and bobsled sleds are quite different.Today

What’s the difference between luge, bobsled and skeleton, anyway?

All three events take place on an ice-covered course with banking turns, but there are crucial differences between the three, including the type of sled used to navigate the run.

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The only discipline in which the athlete starts in the sled is luge. The racer lies on his or her back on a flat sled, feet first, and then pulls himself or herself forward to begin the run. The racer then angles his or her body to steer down the course on the sled, which can reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. Luge is mainly an individual sport, although there is a two-man luge event, which TODAY’s Al Roker and Matt Lauer will attempt in Sochi in all their Spandexed glory.

Skeleton is almost like riding a luge sled, just while lying face down and head-first instead of feet first and using a differently modified sled. Also, the racer does not begin in the sled, but runs for about 40 meters before jumping face-first on the sled for the remainder of the ride. Like luge, athletes have to use body angles to guide the sled because there is no steering mechanism, and speeds can hit 90 mph.

Anyone who has seen “Cool Runnings” knows that the bobsled, which comes in the two-man and four-man variety, has to be pushed for up to 50 meters before the crew jumps in for the rest of the ride down the course. The bobsled has seats almost like a small car with runners at the bottom that help propel it down the icy course. Unlike skeleton and luge, it also has a mechanism that steers the sled that can be controlled by the driver. Bobsled is much more of a team discipline than luge or skeleton.

Italy’s Mirko Nenzi, left, competes in the the men’s speed skating 1000 m on Feb. 12; Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya, right, performs during the women’s free skating of the figure-skating team event on Feb. 9.Today

How are speed skates different from figure skates? They’re so funky-looking!

Speed skates have longer blades than figure skates in order to create more speed by distributing the skater’s weight and producing less friction. The longer blade also makes it easier for skaters to propel themselves with each stroke. Speed-skating blades can be up to 46 centimeters long, whereas figure-skating blades can be much shorter depending on the age, shoe size and skill level of the competitor.

Another type of funky-looking skate is the clap skate, which can be seen in the long-distance skating events. The heel of the blade is not attached to the skater’s boot, so with each stride, the blade quickly disconnects from the heel to keep the blade on the ice longer and increase the pushing power of the skater. Once the blade is fully extended, a spring-loaded mechanism snaps the blade back up to the boot, which creates a clapping sound.

Alex Bilodeau of Canada is pictured on his way to winning gold in the freestyle skiing men’s moguls final on Feb. 10.Sergey Ilnitsky / Today

What does skiing moguls do to your body — especially your knees?

Training at the elite Olympic level can be hard on the lower back and legs because of the tremendous speed and force placed on the lower body. The knees act like springs and take huge hits on the slope because they soak up every bump, break and hard turn on the course.

“When you’re hitting the mogul, you’re moving forward. For a moment, you’re foot is stopping you and that force is usually transmitted up to the knee,” said Nick DiNubile, a medical spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “If you hit it wrong and your body continues to go forward, but your knee and lower leg have stopped, you can pop your anterior cruciate ligament,” or ACL, one of the knee’s major ligaments.

Peter Millett, the orthopaedist who two years ago performed surgery on Olympian Heidi Kloser’s left knee (not the one she recently injured), put it in perspective by estimating that mogul skiers head downhill at a rate between 25-30 miles an hour. Fortunately, medical advances have come a long way to put athletes back into action. “Because of modern sports medicine and orthopedic surgery,” Millett said, “we can do a lot to repair athletes to get them back to the same level if not higher level.”

Difference between luge and skeleton

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