Skeleton is the oldest competitive sled racing sport in the world and the sport from which both Bobsleigh and Luge evolved. Skeleton was first developed in the late 19th Century by British vacationers sliding from the resort community of St. Moritz, Switzerland to the smaller community of Celerina, just down the mountain. Skeleton, or Cresta, as it was know at the time was strictly a recreational sport until making its Olympic debut in 1928 in none-other than its birthplace of St. Moritz. Like bobsleigh, skeleton athletes push the heavy metal and fiberglass sleds to achieve top foot speed before diving head-first and laying in the prone position to descend the roughly 1.5 km-long track of icy turns ahead of them. To make it down in the fastest time, competitors focus on staying as aerodynamic as possible, steering the corners with their heads, shoulders, knees and toes.
More than 20 years passed before Cresta racing was granted an encore
Olympic appearance in 1948, again in St. Moritz. In 1999, the IOC
re-introduced the sport, now commonly referred to as skeleton, after the
Cresta sled was modified to suit modern refrigerated bobsleigh tracks.
Following the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, the sport had firmly
entrenched itself in Olympic prominence as one of the most exciting and
dramatic events of the games.
MODERN SKELETON RACING
Every time a slider steers his or her sled or brushes a wall, precious
energy and time is lost. In a sport where gravity is the only means of
propulsion, walking the fine line between doing too little and too much
steering is where races are won and lost by hundredths of a second.
THE EQUIPMENTSkeleton sleds have a maximum weight restrictions of 35 kilograms for women and 43 kilograms for men, allowing athletes to reach speeds of 146+ kmph. The components of a skeleton sled are as follows:
- Runners - Each sled slides on a pair of steel runners made of 1-inch round tubing with two grooves that run along the last half to aid in steering.
- Saddle - During the start, the athlete uses the saddle to push the sled prior to loading. While descending the track, the saddle holds the slider in place atop the sled.
- Helmet - Each athlete must wear a helmet with a chin guard to prevent facial and head injuries.
- Speed Suit – Skin tight suits are worn to minimize drag and maximize aerodynamics.
- Spikes - The athletes wear spiked shoes to maintain traction while pushing the sled at the start of each race.