Flying by the seat of his pants

We all know there is a very big sporting event which starts at the end of the week – yes the Winter Olympics –  to be held at Whistler, Vancouver. Of the 15 sports to hold events none is perhaps as crazy as this one – shovel racing. What? Shovel racing – yes its a case of going flat out down a hill whilst sat on the blade of the shovel.

Is it not time that the powers that be introduce a gold medal for shovel racing? Oh come on – it is not serious enough – lighten up guys – you have to see the funny side of the sport – check out this video from NickGASfan

Well that is how things were but we are able to provide an update courtesy of Miguel Bustillo of The New York Times who has reported on the resumption of shovel racing at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico this past weekend.

After 25 years people had become a little bored with sliding down the mountain on the shovel and had become rather more creative in their design. As long as the blade of the shovel was on the snow what was built above the blade did not matter.

Faster and faster speeds were recorded and the sport became more dangerous and extreme as people created contraptions like those seen in the video above and therefore in 2005 the authorities had to stop the racing for fear of liability concerns and insurance claims.

This past weekend, Angel Fire resumed shovel racing’s “World Championship” for the first time in five years, but with a big catch: Only old-fashioned metal grain shovels were permitted. Customization was confined to paint and wax.

“People get worked up about losing the modified shovels, but at least we don’t need an aircraft-carrier net anymore to stop people from crashing into the resort,” said Gail Boles, a 47-year-old pharmacist from Taos and former world-champ shovel racer in both the modified and traditional competition.

For now, die-hards hope that the return of “production” shovel racing, the name given to competition featuring mass-produced hardware-store shovels, will spur interest in the more extreme varieties.

For competitive reasons, aficionados are loath to reveal the finer points of shovel-racing technique, but the basics are simple:

Place your hindquarters in the shovel’s rounded end, with the handle between your legs. Straighten your body and lean back as close to the ground as possible. Push off. Pray.

Steering can be attempted by subtly lowering a hand into the snow to correct course, but a speeding shovel has the maneuverability of a shooting cannonball.

Cardinal rule: Never grab the handle, as it only veers you more wildly off track.

More than 100 riders raced time trials beneath turquoise skies this weekend. Shovels flew and no one got hurt. Jeff Hamblin, who clocked a time of 13.4 seconds and reached a top speed of 63 miles per hour, won the men’s championship.Kelly Haukebo, 46, an Angel Fire real-estate agent won the women’s world championship.

Amazingly we have not been able to find a video of the event held last weekend – ESPN used to include shovel racing in their Winter X games but they decided to drop it for demographic reasons – is it that shovel racing is just too extreme – well you could say you were flying by the seat of your pants!

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