The Physics
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Speed of the Fastest Human, Sledding

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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"Lugeing." Guinness Book of Records 1999. New York: Guinness, 1999: 518. "The record for the highest photo-timed speed is 85.38 mph, by Asle Strand (Norway) at Tandådalens Linbana, Sälen, Sweden on May 1, 1982." 38.16 m/s
Encyclopedia of World Sport. Volume II. California: ABC-CLIO, 1996: 586. "On a fast track with the right conditions, a sled can even reach 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour." 40.23 m/s
Fortin, Francois. Sports The Complete Visual Reference. Canada: Firefly, 2000: 174. "Speeds can reach up to 135 km/h." 37.5 m/s
The History of the Olympics. New York: Galahad, 1980: 196. "1968 G, Manfred Schmid (Austria)
2 m 52.48 s. [Assuming a typical track length of 15000 m]"
34.79 m/s
One Year from Olympics, Americans struggle on their own track. "Many of the men'swsingles racers reached 85 mph, and some approached 90 mph." 40.23 m/s

Sledding is the action of riding on a low platform with runners over snow or ice. Sleds can reach instantaneous speeds as high as 40 m/s. There are three different sports of sledding which are bobsledding, luge, and skeleton sledding. Bobsledding and luge are both events of the Winter Olympic Games. Skeleton is supposed to reappear at the Olympics at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bobsledding involves a team of two or four persons riding in the sled. Luge involves either one or two persons, and skeleton involves only one person on the sled. In luge sledding the racer lies flat on his back feet-first after starting in a seated position. In skeleton sledding it's just the opposite. The athlete is head-first lying flat on his stomach after a running start.

All three sports are performed on the same tracks. The average track is 1,500 m long and 1.4 m wide. In the Olympics each athlete takes four runs down the track. The four times are added and the fastest total determines the winner. The average speed is about 35 m/s. Luge is measured in milliseconds which makes it and short track speed skating the most precisely timed events of the Winter Olympic Games.

In order for the sledders to obtain and maintain speeds of 35 to 40 m/s they have special equipment and have to position their bodies correctly.On average the luge and skeleton sled are about 100 to 145 cm long and about 45 to 55 cm wide. The maximum allowed weight which includes the sled and racer is 90.5 kg for luge singles and for skeleton 11 kg for men and 92 kg for women. Racers wear skin tight, aerodynamic suits and streamlined helmets. Luge athletes wear aerodynamically shaped shoes and gloves with spikes on three fingers or on the knuckles while skeleton athletes wear shoes with cleats along the edge of the sole. Both luge and skeleton racers shift their weight slightly either from left to right, move their head slightly and/or their shoulders, or by exerting a bit of pressure on the runners in order to steer or to accelerate downward.

Sharen Chin -- 2001