Close Encounters

Olympians competing as pairs really connect. It can get very personal or very uncomfortable

It's 23 below near the top of Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y., and U.S. lugers Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin are wearing skintight racing suits, perched atop a 2-ft.-wide sled. Martin sits behind Grimmette, legs straddling his teammate. "I've got no traction on my feet," yells Martin. Grimmette, like a longtime nanny, instantly wipes them down with his gloves. The pair, teammates for 10 years, alternate deep breaths. "All right, be aggressive," says Grimmette. "Yup," replies Martin. With that, the U.S.'s best-ever Olympic luge team shoots from the starting block. Now supine on the sled, they hit speeds of 80...

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