Aside from the non-existent Olympic sports of guillotine dodging and biathalon tag, no event displays man or woman risking their neck more wantonly than skeleton. Heck, even the name of the sport is scary: Skeleton. It must be awesome right? It is. Think luge, but head first. That’s precisely what skeleton is: riding a sled headfirst down a bobsleigh track at breakneck speeds. Here’s a quick guide to skeleton while you enjoy the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Rules of Skeleton
Here are a few guidelines skeleton racers must follow to compete in this event.
- No brakes on the skeleton sled. In fact, skeleton racers can’t even attempt to slow down on the track. If they do, they’re disqualified.
- The combined weight of the racer and the sled can be no more than 253 lbs (115 kg) for men and 203 lbs (92 kg) for women.
- The sleds are constructed of steel frames.
- The runners on the skeleton sled cannot be heated. Officials take the temperature electronically at the start of races to make sure.
- The same sled must be used in all heats.
The Sochi Skeleton Track
The complex that will be hosting the Skeleton in the 2014 Sochi Olympics is called the Sliding Center Sanki, and it will also host bobsleigh and luge heats. The track is 1,500 meters long. Over that span, it drops 131.9 meters, which is a mean grade of 9.3 percent. Skeleton racers will twist and turn through 18 curves along the track on their headfirst race to the bottom, where they will approach speeds nearing 80 mph.
Stars of the Skeleton
The FIBT is the international governing body of skeleton racing. They organize the world championships every year, except Olympics years. The current highest ranking skeleton racers for men and women are:
Current FIBT Men’s Skeleton Rankings
- Martins Dukurs LAT
- Tomass Dukurs LAT
- Matthew Antoine USA
Current FIBT Women’s Skeleton Rankings
- Elizabeth Yarnold GBR
- Noelle Pikus-pace USA
- Shelley Rudman GBR
Pikus-pace could be making her last attempt at achieving Olympic glory, after a career that saw her miss the 2006 Turin Olympics after a bobsled ran over her leg, and then missing the gold in Vancouver in 2010 by a tenth of a second to Amy Williams of Great Britain.
Although Williams isn’t competing this year, she recently appeared on an episode of Top Gear where she raced down a skeleton course against a Mini WRC on a crisscrossing road track in Lillehammer.
Make sure to watch the skeleton events, which are scheduled to occur on February 13 through 15 at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics!