What's it all about?
Ever been tobogganing and thought it just wasn't challenging enough? That's probably what the inventors of skeleton thought too. Challenge accepted — they made the sled super small and went head-first down the mountain.
How it's played
The sport: Skeleton is one of three sled events at the Winter Olympics. It can be a thrilling and dangerous sport where athletes lay on their stomachs and slide head first.
The events: There are just two events — men's singles and women's singles. Each rider gets four runs over two days.
The equipment: A slippery ice track full of turns, protective gear and a special sled with steel runners. (See pictures below.)
The strategy: It's all about time. Zoom down the icy track around 130 kilometres per hour and make it to the finish faster than your competitors.
The points: It's a super fast sport so events are timed to the hundredth of a second (0.01). Fastest time after four runs wins the gold.
The athletes: Athletes steer with slight shoulder, head and upper body movements so they need to have great control and precision. And to not be scared of going down the hill face first!
Did you know? It might be called the skeleton because of the bony look of the sled.
Things to watch for
- Athletes’ special shoes have at least 250 very thin spikes on the soles.
- The spikes help the athletes grip the ice as they get their running start.
- Compare that with track-and-field shoes, which have from seven to ten spikes.
Don't be a drag
- It's a bad sign if an athlete's feet are dragging on the ice during their slide.
- It means they're trying to slow themselves down, maybe to avoid flying off the track in an upcoming turn.
- Dragging their feet at the end of their runs is OK — that's how they stop!
The inside line
- Making good turns is important to get down the track quickly.
- Athletes try to stay to the inside of a curve.
- Hitting a curve at the outside could make them go too high.
Athletes can cheat by heating the runners on the sled to make them go faster, so their temperature is taken at the start of each race.
Sliders take a 50-metre running start before hopping on the sled. This helps them race down the track even faster.
The only way to steer a skeleton is with slight head, shoulder or body movements.