In men's and women's singles, athletes take four runs down the track. The four times are added, and the fastest total time determines the winner. The competition takes two days to complete (two runs per day). The four-run format is unique to the Olympic Winter Games and is designed to reward consistency, endurance, and ability to withstand pressure - particularly on the second day.
Men and women compete on the same track, though the women start from a position further down the course. At the Whistler Sliding Centre, the men's course is approximately .85 miles; the women's and doubles course is .74 miles.
At the start of all four runs, each sled is weighed, each athlete is weighed, and temperatures of sled runners are compared to an official "control" runner. In singles, the sled cannot weigh more than 50.6 lbs.There is no maximum weight for athletes, but men who weigh less than 198 lbs and women who weigh less than 165 lbs are allowed to add extra weight as ballast.
The men's and women's singles fields are divided into four starting groups, based on results from the last three World Cup races prior to the Games, with a maximum of three athletes per country. Bib numbers and starting positions are randomly drawn from within each starting group. For the second run, each group reverses its starting order. The third proceeds with the fastest athlete from the first two runs and ends with the slowest. For the final run, the fastest team based on the first three runs combined competes last.
After the final run, the three medalists face "sled control" in which the whole vehicle is taken apart and officials examine measurements and check suspension systems to ensure that no illegal methods or materials are present.
Doubles luge is a one-day competition in which pairs of athletes take two runs down the course. The fastest total time determines the winner. There is no rule that says a doubles team must comprise members of the same sex, but traditionally, men have slid together, with the larger man positioned on top for a more aerodynamic fit. The doubles course is .74 miles.
At the start of both doubles runs, each sled is weighed, each athlete is weighed, and temperatures of sled runners are compared to an official "control" runner. The sled in doubles cannot be more than 59.4 lbs, and there is no maximum weight for the pair.
The doubles field is divided into four starting groups based on results from the last three World Cup races prior to the Games, with a maximum of two doubles teams per country. Bib numbers and starting positions are randomly drawn from within each starting group for the first run. In the second run, the teams start in reverse rank order (the fastest team goes last) based on results from the first run.
After the second (final) run, sled checks are performed on the sleds of the three teams that won medals. A failure to meet the standards results in disqualification.