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Innsbruck

Napoleon Bonaparte once said that victory belongs to the most persevering, but look where he ended up, stuck on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic.

And after my first experience of winter sports left me feeling slightly dazed and nauseous, I definitely think that knowing when to quit is far more important.

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Not 100 yards from my hotel in a village close to Innsbruck is the track where the 1976 Winter Olympics' bobsleigh was contested.

In that year, the East Germans cleaned up, winning gold in the four- and two-man bob, leaving West Germany and Switzerland trailing in their wake.

That was on ice, under extreme pressure and with the prospect of an unexpected meeting with the Stasi in the event of failure.

I went down the track on a bob with wheels - it runs on concrete in the summer - with three Swedes and a professional driver called Wolfgang. Even so, the track is essentially the same - 1.2km in length with 14 curves and a drop of 124 metres.

bobcurves438.jpg

It all looked so smooth and graceful as I watched others fly down. But, as I paid my money and said my prayers, I was extremely disarmed to see a man who seemed to know Wolfgang pretty well arrive on crutches while "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" blared out over the PA system.

And BBC 5 Live commentator John Murray, who had tried his luck a few days earlier, had warned me that I was in for a bumpy ride.

Not half. As I climbed into bob number 2, I felt pretty relaxed, more concerned about trying to make sure I could record the ride on my phone.

But the minute-long descent passed in a blur, with my only real recollection being a most sincere and desperate hope that the unwanted union of my head with the crash barriers on either side of me would come to a permanent end.

I had a crash helmet plus fireproof balaclava - all very F1 - but it did not detract from the jarring sensation that every dull thud sent through my body each time I banged into the sides.

We must have whizzed around bends and flown down straights but I don't remember seeing anything other than the occasional blurred sighting of the helmet in front of me.

In truth, I just don't think I'm cut out for this sort of thing because the three Swedes I went down with seemed very pleased with it all. And I don't think my head has taken such a pounding since I found myself on the bottom of a particularly vigorous pile-on at school.

Wolfgang assured me it had been a very, very bump ride, but it is not what I would call a generous reward for hard work.

As I climbed out of the bob, the sight of at least 15 police vehicles in a previously deserted car park had me thinking that I must be concussed. Either that or stealing a chocolate bar from the tuck shop in junior four had finally caught up with me.

But it seems that, in Austria at least, if you've been putting in overtime maintaining law and order during a major tournament, then your reward is being put in a piece of moulded plastic and sent down an unforgiving concrete track at high velocity.

That said, the police in Austria probably have more to contend with than their Swiss counterparts.

The sights of my first night out in Austria were all too familiar - and not at all like Switzerland.

Drunks propped up by friends, fresh piles of spew, men relieving themselves anywhere that took their fancy - one without the use of hands at all - and a 90-minute search for a taxi.

Suddenly, I realised just how wonderfully efficient, ordered and clean Switzerland really is.

p.s Having visited Einstein's flat the other day, I am happy to report that I have made a scientific breakthrough of my own.

In England, I would never consider wearing a pair of socks for more than one day but those rules have gone out of the window here. The net result is that my socks are no longer inanimate objects, having, it seems, developed life forms of their own.

And if you pick up a slightly whiffy pong in the next week or so, it is probably the smell being carried over on the breeze.

Paul Fletcher is a broadcast journalist at BBC Sport Interactive. Please check our FAQs if you have any questions.


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