I am a very risk-averse person. It is not just about risks to myself but also risks to others. This is one reason why I never watch high-risk sporting events live because I just can’t bear the tension of wondering if something will go horribly wrong and result in the competitor suffering serious injuries or even dying. Fortunately this rarely happens in the Olympics where the athletes know what they are doing (I hope).
But at the same time, I like to know what these dangerous events are like and Brian Phillips entertainly describes what the skeleton, one of the craziest of winter sporting inventions, is all about.
To be a skeleton slider, what you do is, you take a steel-framed sled with metal blades and no steering mechanism. (Repeat: no steering mechanism.) You start at the top of the course. You sprint out on the ice pushing your sled in front of you. You are wearing, again, a skintight bodysuit and a Cobra Commander helmet. Once you have built up enough speed, you hurl yourself prone atop your sled, pinning your arms and legs to your side and stretching yourself out like a human ICBM. There are other things you could compare this shape to, I’m just saying. You can control the sled a little by sort of tilting your head and wiggling your feet, but from this point to the bottom of the track, your strategy is basically just to be the comet in your own imagination.
Here is the gold medal winning performance at the 2010 Vancouver games.
Thanks to these cameras that can be worn on a helmet, you can see for yourself what skeleton riders see as they go hurtling down the track.
As Phillips points out about this video, this is much slower than the top speeds you get in the Olympics.
[T]he slider in this video tops out at around 110 kilometers per hour, a good 35 kph slower than the top racers are capable of traveling under the right conditions. It’s the difference between driving 68 on the highway and doing 90.
Me, I prefer curling.