Skeleton is a winter sport in which a person rides a small sled, called a “skeleton bobsled” or “skeleton sleigh,” down a frozen track while lying on their backs and facing forward. The name of the sport and the sled may have come from the skeleton-like look of the sled.
The race is different from bobsleigh and luge in that there is always just one rider. The race starts with a running start from the starting gate at the top of the course, just like bobsleigh but not luge. The skeleton sled is thinner and heavier than the luge sled, and the rider has better control over the skeleton sled. Skeleton is the slowest of the three sliding sports because the head-first, face-down position is less aerodynamic than the feet-first, face-up position used in luge.
Before, the sport of skeleton was on the Olympic schedule in 1928 and 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It was added to the Olympics for good at the 2002 Winter Games, when a race for women was also added.
During elite racing, the rider can experience speeds over 130 km/h and accelerations of up to 5 g. (81 mph).
The Sled: The Basic
A skeleton sled’s design is centered around speed. Aerodynamics and speed are always top priorities for sled manufacturers, so they’re constantly searching for new materials and technologies to improve their sleds.
To keep the rider in place, sleds have a steel frame and a saddle. Sleds with carbon fiber base plates are lighter, stronger, and better for steering.
A sled has no brakes or steering devices, so the rider must be able to react quickly in order to avoid a collision. Fresh snow or foam pads are commonly used to help athletes safely come to a halt at the end of the racetrack.
It is possible to create a sled that is unique to the rider’s preferences or the track’s conditions. Sleds with sharp knives on their runners may be used by athletes who are concerned about the ice’s hardness.
Competitions have restrictions on the size and weight of sleds. The maximum weight of sled and driver, including equipment, for men is 115 kilograms. It’s 92 kilograms for women. Sled and driver combined must not weigh more than 33 kg for men and 29 kg for women if these limits are exceeded. Between 80cm and 120cm long, and between 8cm and 20cm high, sleds can be used by both men and women.
The bulk of the sled is made up of the sled body. Stomach and headfirst are the preferred positions for the rider. Steel skeletons are required for all competitions.
On either side of the sled’s bottom are two long stainless-steel strips. Their sole purpose is to make contact with the ice, and that is why they are used.
Running on the sled, each runner can be bowed to reduce the total ice area. This aids the runner in sled control. On soft or hard ice (or both), the athlete can adjust the steering difficulty by bowing or un-bowing the runner.
Because it’s designed to dig the runner and the sled into the ice, the knife on the runner is the sharpest part of the runner.
Carbon fiber is often used for the base plate because of its light weight. The sled’s shape is intended to direct airflow beneath it, increasing its aerodynamic properties.
These are held on to by the rider as they make their way down the course. They’ll be traveling at speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour!
To secure the saddle, Tesa adhesive tape is applied to the steel frame, and the saddle is bolted in place. The rider is protected from the sled’s sharp steel thanks to the tape’s ability to stick even at extremely low temperatures.
The sled’s body is protected by these bumpers, just like a car’s bumpers, when it hits the track’s walls. High-speed crashes into a wall of concrete covered in ice are extremely painful.
What’s in the Kit and Why do you Need it
In order to compete in the sport, a lot of time and money is invested in designing and developing equipment that can help athletes gain an advantage over their rivals.
Even a small improvement in aerodynamics can make all the difference in the world, so finding the best manufacturing methods is critical to success.
In order to compete, every athlete should have the following:
The Race Suit
Skeleton race suits are made of lycra because they are lightweight and tight-fitting, which makes the rider more efficient and comfortable.
As a result, there is no loose material flapping around in the wind, slowing down the athlete. It comes with a hood, which can be removed by the athlete if desired.
Specialized racing helmets are worn by skeleton athletes. The helmet’s design is critical because it must be both strong and light enough to protect the athlete’s skull in the event of an impact at 5G speeds. Due to the fact that an athlete’s head will frequently come into contact with the ice, a helmet is required.
A Perspex visor adorns each helmet. Depending on the track’s lighting conditions, these come in a variety of colors. With two or three different visors to choose from, athletes will be able to adapt their visors to suit the conditions at hand. They’ll also have an extra visor in case their current one breaks.
Brush spikes are required for all races. Because of their brush-like appearance and the more than 300 needle-like spikes on the soles, these shoes were given their name. At the start of the race, these spikes grip the ice to help the athlete push their sled as hard as possible.
In terms of damage to the ice, skeleton spikes are better than athletics shoe spikes, which have more, larger spikes.
Technique: How to Start and Go
A skeleton race has two parts that are very different from each other. For an athlete to reach the podium, he or she must master both:
At the starting line, races can be won or lost, so it’s important to get off to a fast start. Before jumping on, athletes need speed, strength, and skill to get the sled moving as quickly as possible.
The beginning of a race is by far the most crucial stage of the competition. The competition is usually so tough that if you don’t get off to a good start (usually within a tenth of a second of the fastest time), it’s almost impossible to come in first. The athlete’s goal is to push their sled as fast as they can for 20 to 30 meters before jumping on.
- From a standing start, the athletes push the sled as fast as they can for 65m.
- The clock doesn’t start until the crew passes the 15-meter mark.
- A split time of 50m is provided (65m from the standing start and 50m from when the clock starts)
Power and strength that can be used quickly is the key here. The spikes on the bottom of an athlete’s shoes are very important because they help them keep their footing on the ice so they can push with all their strength with every step.
When the athlete gets the “go” signal, they have to put their sled in one of two grooves on the track called “spurs.” These spurs help the sled go in a straight line and keep it from sliding or slowing down.
With one hand on the sled, the athlete starts moving (which hand they choose is up to them). They have 30 seconds to get to the first timing mark at 50m or they will be disqualified. This isn’t usually a problem for the best athletes, who can run the first 50 meters in five seconds or less while going over 40 km/h.
The athletes will have their own ways of standing, taking off their warm clothes, and putting on their helmets.
Once the athlete is on the sled, they will need to be fully focused and have quick reflexes to go as fast as possible through each turn and twist.
If the athlete got off to a good start in the first 50m, he or she should now be in the most aerodynamic position on the sled and ready to take the first turn.
They won’t have to wait long to reach top speed, which can be up to 140 km/h, and feel 5Gs of force (or five times the force of gravity).
Their feet and heads hang off the sled, and their chins are just a few centimeters from the ice. On corners where the athlete is going very fast, his or her chin will touch and scrape the ice. This can be hard for the athlete because it can make it hard for them to see. So, they’ll have to “feel their way” around the corner until the g-pressure goes down and they can lift their chins.
Athletes can steer the sled in one of three ways: 1) shift their weight in the direction they want to go; 2) use their knees or shoulders to push down on one of the sled’s corners; or 3) reach out and tap a toe on the ice in the direction they want to go.
When they’re going so fast, even moving their head will change the way the air is moving around them and make the sled move.
Even though the athlete will try to learn every corner of the track before the race, they will still need lightning-fast reflexes to get the sled into the best position to speed into and out of a corner. If they can’t find the best route, it will slow them down, and even a small mistake could cost them a spot on the podium.
Luge, bobsleigh, and skeleton are the three sports that compete in the Olympic Winter Sliding competition. As a group, these winter sports have a rate of injuries that is significantly higher than average among the athletes who compete in the Winter Olympic Games. Because of the icy track and the high speeds that athletes are capable of reaching during training and competition, there is a high likelihood that athletes will sustain injuries. In addition, the severity of the injuries sustained can range from minor bumps and bruises to catastrophic injuries affecting vital organs such as the head, neck, and spine of the victim. Skeleton is generally considered to be the safest of the sliding sports. This is primarily due to the fact that its steering mechanism is more delicate and precise than that of luge, which makes turns less dangerous. The bobsled and the luge sled are both significantly heavier than this sled.