There are less than fifty days until the start of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The Winter Olympics are especially exciting because so many of the events include traveling at high speeds on either ice or snow. Luge and bobsled events always attract a lot of attention, but the lesser-known skeleton is growing in popularity. Here are some reasons to tune in for this year’s skeleton events.
Unlike the luge, where racers travel feet first down the track, skeleton athletes ride on their stomachs, with their heads pointed downhill. There is no breaking mechanism: racers use spikes on their shoes to control their speed and they steer using their upper body.
Like the bobsled and luge, skeleton athletes travel at insane speeds; it’s not unheard of for a racer to exceed 80 miles per hour on the icy track. It’s one of the only Olympic sports where athletes experience forces five times that of gravity.
Skeleton has only been a permanent sport in the Olympics since 2002. Prior to 2002, the event was only included when the Games were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1928 and again in 1948. St. Moritz is widely recognized as the birthplace of skeleto
n and the town is still home to the only natural-ice track in the world.
Realize Your Olympic Dream
The sport’s popularity has surged in the past decade as more and more people learn what it is, but it’s still new enough that many Olympians have only been training for a decade. While this may seem like a long time, consider other events, like skiing, where athletes have been practicing for their entire lives. Some Olympians competing in the event have backgrounds in luge and Track & Field, but other sliders have more colorful backgrounds, like Matt Griff, who works as a stuntman.
It’s all about the push, which is why athletes with Track & Field backgrounds excel at the sport. Spiked shoes allow athletes to get traction on the ice during the sprint at the start of the event. During the summer, athletes train at a push track, where the sled runs on a track rather than on ice.
Give it a Try
If you’re psyched to give skeleton a try, some of North America’s tracks offer lessons for beginners. But beware, investing in the sport can be pricey–some sleds cost over $100,000.