WHAT IS SKELETON?
Often nicknamed Formula 1 on ice, Skeleton bobsleigh is an adrenaline-fuelled sport where the athlete runs as fast as they can and jumps on a sled, sliding headfirst down an icy track with no brakes wearing little but a helmet and lycra, with the aim of guiding the sled down as fast and smoothly as possible, reaching speeds up to 85mph. The siblings sports of skeleton are luge (feet first and even faster than skeleton) and bobsleigh (think of the film Cool Runnings).
ARE ALL THE
TRACKS THE SAME?
There are currently 18 tracks in the world, all in the Northern Hemisphere across North America, Europe, and Asia. They are all different. Each track has its own nature and style and range between 1.2km and 1.6km in length. Skeleton athletes navigate complex twists and turns without brakes, their chins just 2 inches from the ice. They experience 5G pressures - more than the recent Space X astronauts experienced in their launch - and complete the course typically in less than 60 seconds. I like a good technical track, which is often fast, high pressure and can bite when it goes wrong (but feels great when it goes right). My favorites are Whistler, Lillehammer and St Moritz.
For each Olympics, they build a new track to try and grow the sport in that country. The below image is of the next Olympic track in China and as you can see, it is modelled with the characteristics of a Chinese Dragon and there is a full 360-degree turn (a Kreisel) in the middle. The first opportunity for us to experience the track will be in March 2020.
HOW DO YOU QUALIFY
FOR AN OLYMPICS?
The next Games will be Beijing 2022 and to qualify, athletes must achieve the International Olympic Committee (IOC) qualification standard, which allows 25 spots for women and 25 spots for men. Sometimes, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) establish their own target quotas for their national athletes to achieve to enter the Games. Skeleton was re-introduced to the Winter Olympics in 2002 after a short hiatus. It is often misconceived that it is "easy" to qualify for an Olympics in niche sports such as skeleton or bobsleigh, but the days of Eddie the Eagle are over, and each athlete works hard to achieve their dream of representing their country.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?
It's a fun and important part of the story. If it wasn’t for the amazing experiences I had at the beginning, I wouldn’t be zooming headfirst representing Israel on the international circuit today. My dad took up bobsleigh at the age of 50(!) I went along to watch in Norway and a couple of years later I was invited to go headfirst down the icy track for myself.
HOW OLD WERE YOU
WHEN YOU STARTED?
The first time I got on a sled was in 2014 during a week’s ice camp in Igls, Austria with the Royal Navy Skeleton team. I was 25 years old, which is pretty late to start a sport, but that didn't hold me back. I fell in love with the sport - the speed, adrenaline and camaraderie within the team was what ignited my passion from the start. I was invited back after Austria to train a few weeks at a time, which took me to different tracks in France, Germany and Norway. I used my annual leave and self-financed to train on ice and started sprint training at the local club in Cambridge.
As I improved, I invested more in myself and my equipment. I was shown a lot of kindness along the way from the British forces teams and friends on the skeleton circuit who, for example gave me their old race suits or shared track time. Over the next three seasons my motivation for skeleton grew further and I was introduced to Bobsleigh Skeleton Israel. It’s been a whirlwind so far, and we’re just halfway there!