The Canadian team have monopolised the tracks at Whistler in sports such as the skeleton – gaining an advantage over their opponents. All the other visiting nations will have just six practice runs under Games conditions when they get to Whistler to take them to a total of 40 descents each on the track before the skeleton gets under way on 18 February. The Canadians will be up near the 400 mark.
There are two individual skeleton events in the Olympic Games: one for men and one for women. Both events consist of four heats held over two days, timed electronically to 0.01 seconds. The individual with the lowest combined time wins. The tracks run from 1200 – 1650 m, 1200 m of which are downhill
Men’s skeleton was raced at the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games, both in St. Moritz. Skeleton then re-appeared as a permanent Olympic sport for both men and women at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Skeleton got its name from the sled used — originally metal, now fiberglass and metal — as it resembles a human skeleton. To start, a skeleton slider grasps the handles on either side of the sled, runs as fast as possible for approximately 50 metres, then dives head first onto the sled. Sliders lie on their stomachs and steer by shifting their bodies very slightly.
Like the other sliding sports of bobsleigh and luge, the start is crucial in skeleton — where a tenth of a second lead at the start can become three-tenths of a second by the bottom of the run. These athletes train much like sprinters to develop the powerful legs they need to explode onto the track. But speed is not the only factor: they must also find the best line and steer smoothly through each turn to keep their speed high.
Canadian skeleton slider Mellisa Hollingsworth won a bronze medal for Canada at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games shortly after winning the overall World Cup title that season and will start as one of the favourites for the women’s event in Whistler.
She will have to be in top form as speeds of up to 140 kmh can be achieved on what is believed to be the fastest track in the world. Athletes from Germany, Latvia, United States, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Canada, Korea, Australia, Russia, Norway, Japan, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Ireland, Slovenia, Bermuda will be lining up to challenge her.
And why not use the home advantage – wouldn’t you – and what else is home advantage for? The Canadians deserve a good return in terms of medals for putting on what we are sure will be a great Winter Olympics – bring them on!
The video below from Blickinsfreie shows you how skeleton is done.
This video from newsliders gives you an idea of the speed you attain as it is filmed from a camera attached to the helmet of the skeleton pilot – terrrrifying!