Skeleton speed: Alberta sledder to slide into Pyeongchang

Kevin Boyer is obsessing over the hairpin turns of the bobsleigh track for Pyeongchang.

'It's a unique track. It's nothing like I've ever slid before'

Kevin Boyer's helmet features a Haida-inspired beaver design, along with a shout-out to his parents. (Johann Groder/AFP/Getty Images)

Kevin Boyer is obsessing over the hairpin turns of the skeleton track for Pyeongchang.

The 24-year-old from Sherwood Park will be whipping down the frozen track — face-down, head-first and reaching speeds of more than 130 kilometres per hour — when he represents Canada at the Winter Olympics next month.

The demanding design of the track has the young athlete's mind going in circles. 

"It's a unique track. It's nothing like I've ever slid before," Boyer said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.  "It's going to make for an interesting race, that's for sure."

With sharp turns and challenging uphill stretches, the track is among the most daunting he's ever encountered, Boyer said.

"Even just in corner two, so high up on the track, if you make a mistake up there, your race is over," he said. "Whoever gets four consistent runs on this track will deserve to be the gold medallist, that's for sure.

"I spend a lot of time laying on my sled away from the track — visualizing the track, trying to get my drive right — so when the clock comes and it's my turn to go, I'm ready to go."

Boyer, who trains in Calgary, took up the sport eight years ago.

Inspired by Jon Montgomery's gold medal performance at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, he signed up for Alberta skeleton school.

He was always athletic, but his pursuits led him to more traditional sports.  

"I was a hockey player and a baseball player growing up," he recalled. "When I was 17, I stopped playing hockey and I wasn't quite done yet being an athlete.

"I got in touch with the Skeleton Association, sent them an email, got on the sled, and fell in love with it from the get-go."

'Take your licks'

Immediately hooked, Boyer began training aggressively and competing later that year.  

He entered his first North America Cup race in 2012 in Calgary where he had two top-10 finishes. He joined the national team in 2013, and competed on the North America Cup for the entire 2014 season.

After progressing onto the Europa Cup for the second half of the 2015 season, he celebrated a silver medal in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in his first race. One year later, he made his World Cup debut.

It looks like we're doing nothing but, in my first three days, I was hitting everything in sight.-Kevin Boyer

But before he started scaling the podium, there was a steep learning curve.

"The speed kind of caught me off guard," Boyer said. "It's not easy.

"We're just laying down there and it looks like we're doing nothing but, in my first three days, I was hitting everything in sight going down the track. You take your licks and you rally from them."

Coming off the 2018 World Cup in Konigssee, Germany, where he came in 13th, Boyer is humble about his chances at the podium in Pyeongchang.

"My best result this year was 12th and my worst was 20th. So anywhere in there, I would be happy with," he said. "Obviously if I could do better than 12th, I would be over the moon about  it.  

"I just want to go out there and do the best I can and let the cards fall where they may."

Boyer will be sliding down the track in his trademark helmet, which is emblazoned with a Haida-style beaver and done up in his favourite colours — Edmonton green and gold.

"I just wanted to represent Edmonton," said Boyer.  "I really wanted to have that touch of home."