Archive for April, 2001

Skeleton – 13 April 2001

April 13th, 2001 No comments

Skeleton – The Tourist Perspective

As you may know, PLUS Lotto sponsors Caroline Burdet, the Liechtenstein skeleton rider, in her quest for Gold at the Winter Olympics. One of the perks (although I am not sure you would call it that!) is that some of the hardworking staff at PLUS Lotto headquarters in Liechtenstein recently had the opportunity to try this crazy sport out for ourselves.

The 23rd February did not look good for the ride. It was snowing and the track at Iggls in Innsbruck was closed. We had it booked for an hour and were waiting in Liechtenstein nervously for instruction to drive over to Innsbruck. It was with an inner sense of relief that we had the call from Caroline not to bother going as the track was closed. I didn’t have to seem chicken and could pretend it was all the fault of the weather. And there was always next year (the track closes this weekend).

My relief was short lived, however, as Caroline managed to wangle us some time slots on the Saturday, last day of the season. We had to be there at 12.00 so that we could get ready to slide at 13.00.

Traffic to Innsbruck was horrendous – it seems everyone was going the same way and we arrived at 12.45 only to get lost trying to find the track. Eventually we arrived late. That took care of the walk up next to the track, instructions and other such niceties. Time was compressed and we were forced to absorb instructions whilst squeezing into body armour several sizes too small. In any case the instructions did not amount to much – “Hold tight and keep your shoulders and elbows in”.

Time for the first run. Not being practised at this I start from a stationery prone position – lying on the sled. The experts run and jump on, I just let gravity do its thing.

Terror begins about 2 seconds after the sled starts to move and realisation sets in. I cannot stop. I cannot slow down. I cannot turn. Tuck in the shoulders and grit the teeth.

Turn 1, turn 2 – speeding up. Still some element of fun, combined with trepidation about the next 30 seconds.

It starts to get violent. Contrary to popular belief the ice in the track is not a smooth, oiled glass affair. It’s hard, slippery and very rough. It’s had a season of bobsleds each scoring its own tracks – the end result being a very bumpy ride. Faster and faster I go, eyes watering and battling to keep my head up.

I reach the 270 degree turn in the middle of the course. Thank God I am half way. And yes! I’m slowing down. Illusion… The G forces try to force me to kiss the ice (it’s ony a few inches from my nose). The sled seems to slow but then it shoots out the turn like a stone from a slingshot. More of this! Please let it end!

It turns to the right and then to the left and your speed is out of control! The hands are tired and bruised from being battered against the ice walls. Just when I cant hold on any more I’m into the tight left hander at the bottom of the hill. High on the bank I wizz round and then its down with a thump against the left hand ice wall before the corkscrew bends on the bottom flat. At last I see snow on the track and the sled climbs about 100 meters before coming to a halt. I lie there wondering if my body will still work. Adrenaline makes me shake and feel decidedly light headed. The bobsleigh helper at the course bottom comes over and helps me carry the sled (they weigh about 35Kg) to the end of the track and out of the way of the next guy.

As the truck climbs the hill again it all seems worthwhile. Sure – it was scary. Sure I am a bit sore. But hey! It was fun.

“Do you want to ride again?” YES! This time I will know what to expect and it will all be easier and more fun. Caroline finds me a “better” sled – the other one was apparently not so good. Off again down the track. What can I say? The second time was more violent, more scary, and drew blood (my hand scraped the ice wall). Did I go a 3rd time? No. Will I go again next year if I get the chance? YES!

For what its worth I got the chance to go as a passenger in a 4 man bogsleigh afterwards and it was a doddle after the skeleton – much like a rollercoaster. It was great to get a chance to see the track too!

Some pictures (these are not of me!)….

How to get it wrong (or bruises – where they come from)
Speed …
Someone else’s perspective



Photo Album

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