Going downhill fast
What would it feel like to lie face down on a skateboard, whilst being towed along a motorway at 70mph?
Adam Pengilly, from Taunton in Somerset, says it might come close to the experience of racing on a skeleton bobsleigh. (Please dont try and find out for yourself.)
Unlike 2-man or 4-man bobsleigh, the 'bob skeleton' is an individual winter sports event in which competitors slide head first down a mile of mountainside track.
They ride a tiny sled, their chins just inches above the ice.
Forget the motorway skateboard an experienced competitor can reach speeds in excess of 80mph.
Skeleton Bobsleigh developed from tobogganing and is similar to Cresta.
Skeleton is one of the four bob track events. It is the fastest growing of all the bob sports.
The sport was re-introduced at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City after a 54 year absence. Previously it was last held on the Cresta Run in 1948.
Skeleton involves the athlete adopting a face down, head first, minimal drag riding position on board a sleek sled.
From a stand still at the track top, the athlete sprints over 20 to 30 metres, accelerating the sled before diving aboard. The goal is the fastest possible descent of the track.
Skeleton bob speeds approach 135 km/hr.
The sled has no brakes or mechanical steering. There is minimal protection. The athlete steers by shifting his/her body weight and aerodynamic profile in tandem with the track dynamics.
Every bobsleigh track has a different combination of bends.
As the athlete descends the track, `G forces' of plus 5 G's are experienced.
Bath University acts as British base camp for the national bob skeleton squad.
An artificial track allows the athletes to practise leaping onto a sled using a simple system of sloping rails.
It looks extremely difficult, and slightly comic as fit men and women sprint and then dive onto a device that looks like a tea-tray crossed with a rollercoaster.
The speed and the smoothness of 'the push' can earn vital hundredths of a second in the crucial selection races and world cup competitions upon which every bob skeleton athletes gaze is fixed.
Adam and his team mates travel to Lillehammer, in Norway, for their first ice-track races of the winter.
Theyre using one of only 19 such slopes in the world, purpose-built for the 1994 winter Olympics.
Only the very fastest down the mountainside (they take less than a minute to cover more than a mile) will qualify for a place in the British World Cup squad.
If Adam rides the icy half-pipes twists and turns with smoothness and consistency over three days of selection racing he will be on his way to five international competitions around the world.
The adrenalin and the courage hes depending upon are fuelled by the glimpse of an even greater goal.
If his world cup season continues to go well, he could be eligible to travel to Turin in February to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
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