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The fastest sport on ice

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2014 U.S. Olympian Tucker West compares a luge run to riding a roller coaster.

“But imagine you’re wearing a blindfold that kind of slipped halfway off, and you still have to make sure you stay on the track,” he said.

There is no sport at the Winter Olympics faster on ice than luge.

Lugers can reach speeds as high as 90 mph as they plunge feet-first down an icy track. Mere milliseconds over four runs can determine the winner.

The phrase “Fastest Sport on Ice” is even a registered trademark of USA Luge.

“Coming out of every turn curve feels like launching into space on a rocket,” said 2010 and 2014 U.S. Olympian Chris Mazdzer in a promotional video for the sport.

Luge is one of two Winter Olympic sports, along with short track, that are timed to the thousandth of a second. And such precision is necessary. The 1998 Olympic women’s race was decided by just .002 seconds over four runs.

“This sport can be won or lost in the thousandths of a second,” said 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin. “It’s us against the clock.”

“It’s difficult to make it look like you’re doing nothing,” he said. “If you were to send a normal person down a luge track on Olympic ice, they would probably flip the sled within a turn or two.”

NBCOlympics.com: Erin Hamlin named Team USA flag bearer for PyeongChang Opening Ceremony

You can watch the “Fastest Sport on Ice” beginning Feb. 10. The men’s competition will take place on Feb. 10 and 11 in PyeongChang, followed by the women’s competition on Feb. 12 and 13, with the doubles competition on Feb. 14 and the team relay on Feb. 15.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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