The team relay event made its Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Each team, or nation, consists of three sleds: women’s singles, men’s singles and doubles.
The competition starts with the women’s singles sled. At the finish, she hits an overhead touchpad, which opens the start gate for the men’s singles sled. Once he finishes and hits the overhead touchpad, the doubles sled makes the final run down the course.
The timing is continuous, so the winner is the nation with the lowest time after all three sleds have finished.
Everyone uses the women’s start, where the men have little experience.
“It’s a stressful event,” said U.S. luger Tucker West. “Your entire team is relying on you to not screw up, and you’ve never raced from that start before, so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Reaching up to make contact with the overhead touchpad is also an unfamiliar motion for lugers.
“In PyeongChang, the pad comes up quickly out of the final curve,” West said. “We wear spikes on our hands, so you can get tangled. It’s tough to pull your hands up quickly to get up to the pad.”
Germany is the clear favorite. They claimed the inaugural Olympic team relay gold medal in Sochi. Not surprising, considering Germany also swept the gold medals in men’s singles, women’s singles and doubles in 2014. Germany also claimed the team relay title at all three editions of the Luge World Championships since the 2014 Olympics.
The U.S. is a medal contender in the event after claiming silver at the 2017 World Championships — and even more so after Chris Mazdzer won silver in the men’s singles to become the first American to win a medal in the event.
The 2018 Olympic luge team relay is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 7:30 a.m. ET. You can watch the live event stream here.