Here's some free Olympic gambling advice: when it comes to luge, bet on whoever's the most German. Since luge was first introduced at 1964 Winter Olympics its three events — men's singles, women's singles, and doubles — have been dominated by Germans, Austrians, and German-speaking Italians. An American has never medaled in a singles event and have never done better than silver in doubles (in 1998 and again in 2002), despite some success at the World Cup. This year the Olympic committee has added a team relay (one men's single, one women's single and one doubles pair), and based on prediction the US might win the bronze.
Germany (and East Germany) has won 70 of the 117 Olympic luge medals given out over the last 50 years. Part of their dominance, as the AP explains, is the fact that Germany has four international standard luge tracks in the country, while the US has two. And in Germany kids start luging at a younger age, which lets the country weed out the losers. "These athletes are the result of a very big process of ... ha, it's hard to say in English ... auslese," Georg Hackl, who won gold at the 1992, 1994 and 1998 games, told the AP. Basically, you pick the best grapes to make the best medal-winning wine.
The US has tried to make wine its own way. In 1988, the US team thought riblet, a special tape, would be their secret weapon. As The Los Angeles Times reported at the time:
The U.S. team had big hopes for Riblet, a tape applied to the underside of the pod on the sled designed to reduce wind drag. They thought it might be so popular that one of the U.S. sliders could place in the top 10. [...]
Instead of a top 10 finish, the U.S. gave itself another dose of what is becoming the common denominator for American teams at these games--controversy.
Duncan Kennedy accused the US Luge Association of tampering with his sled, resulting in him finishing in 14th place. In 1992 he improved dramatically, finishing in 10th place.