Team quotas not yet set for 2026 Olympic luge competition

USA Luge continues developing women’s doubles in time for Milan Cortina

USA Luge headquarters in Lake Placid (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — After the International Olympic Committee announced on June 24 that women’s doubles will be added to the 2026 Olympic Winter Games program at Milan Cortina, Italy, one question remains. Will there be fewer men competing in luge at the Olympics now that more women will be competing?

When the IOC made its announcement — saying that Milan Cortina will become “the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history” — it also said that quota spots will remain the same. In short, they don’t want to add more athletes, only rearrange the male-female balance to make the competition more equitable.

“We have made significant progress to close the gender gap at the Olympic Winter Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “We are moving from 40% female participation at Sochi 2014 to 47% in Milano Cortina. We are committed to continuing to advance gender equality, and Milano Cortina will be another key milestone in this endeavour.”

In all, eight new events were added to the 2026 program, while one was removed and one was replaced. Yet the overall athlete quota was set at 2,900, eight more than the 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Beijing, China.

“This approach is in line with the objective of reducing the cost and complexity of hosting the Olympic Winter Games by using existing venues and respecting the overall athlete quota of 2,900,” the IOC press release stated.

For the luge world, it’s a major stepping stone, building upon what happened last season, when the FIL held its first World Championships at Winterberg, Germany in January. U.S. women’s doubles athletes toured with the Junior Team last season for their World Cup tour.

“They ran a full World Cup tour, but it was kind of separate,” said Gordy Sheer, USA Luge director of sponsorship and marketing. “But this year, they’re going to be traveling with the full World Cup circuit.”

One U.S. women’s doubles team — Sophie Kirkby, of Ray Brook, and Chevonne Forgan, a native of Chelmsford, Massachussetts — came home from January’s World Championships with a bronze medal. They will join another women’s doubles team — Maya Chan, of Chicago, Illinois, and Reannyn Weiler, of Whitesboro — on the World Cup tour next season, according to Sheer.

“We’ve been working with female doubles athletes for a few years now,” said Mark Grimmette, USA Luge sports programs director. “So the announcement of its inclusion in the Games, we’re very excited for. Operationally, it’s more of a formality for us now.”

To help with the women’s and men’s doubles teams, USA Luge hired a new coach: U.S. luge Olympian Jayson Terdiman, who retired after this past season.

Quota spots for the Olympic teams haven’t been worked out, but it could mean that fewer men participate on Olympic luge teams because more women are being added.

“I think we’ll learn more once the FIL qualification procedures come out,” Grimmette said, “but it’s definitely going to have an impact because luge only has 106 spots in the Games, and with this new discipline, it has to fit that same 106 spots.”

Restructuring could mean a simple reshuffling of spots. USA Luge sent a total of eight athletes to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Jonny Gustafson, Chris Mazdzer and Tucker West for men’s singles; Summer Britcher, Ashley Farquharson and Emily Sweeney for women’s singles; and Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander for men’s doubles.

If the U.S. can only send eight athletes to Italy in 2026, it may mean one team each for the women’s and men’s doubles events, and only two athletes each for men’s and women’s singles.

Those quota spots are only for the Olympic teams, though. Grimmette said he expects to add the two women’s teams, without cutting any men’s positions, to the World Cup national team.

Luge was added to the Olympic program for the first time in 1964 when the Olympic Winter Games were held at Innsbruck, Austria. Competition was held in men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles.

The IOC’s news about the women’s doubles being added to the 2026 Olympic program met with mixed reviews at the International Luge Federation (FIL).

“Within the framework of the Milano Cortina 2026 Programme Principles, which reflect both the Olympic Charter, the recommendations of the Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and the vision of the IOC and Milano Cortina 2026 for the Games, we are delighted about the inclusion of women’s doubles on artificial track, but regret the rejection for natural track luge,” FIL President Einars Fogelis said in a prepared statement. “The IOC Executive Board decided not to include natural track luge in the programme as it does not meet the Milano Cortina 2026 programme principles, both in terms of quotas (maintaining the overall quota of 2,900 athletes, giving priority to new events that include athletes within the sport’s existing quota allocation) and venues (new events only if they do not require additional venues for the Games).”

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