An insane cross somewhere between ice luge, snow sledding and just sliding down an icy hill on a plastic teatray, this intriguing, fast-paced sport ain’t your grandmother’s bobsled – and it has nothing to do with corpses, either. Yahoo answers all your “skeleton” questions.
What on earth is Skeleton?
“Skeleton” is a form of single person sled-racing, placed in the same class of sports as luge and bobsledding – although you might be know it simply by its more pedestrian name, as ‘tobogganing’. Essentially a form of one-man sledding, the individual athlete must ride a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down.
Luge, Skeleton, Bobsleigh – what’s the difference?
Although all three sports are played on the same track, confuse the three sports and professional skeleton athletes will be quick to correct you. The key difference between the three disciplines, is that ‘skeleton’ racers travel face-first with their stomach on the sled, whereas luge riders travel feet-first on their backs. Bobsleigh riders, meanwhile, travel in an enclosed sled of two to four people. Luge riders also travel from a push-start, and either in pairs or solo, whereas “skeleton” athletes commence from a running start – and always solo.
Another way for a layman to recognise the difference is that luge sleds are much larger than the typical ‘skeleton’ sled, which are meant only for one person – quite literally, a ‘skeleton crew’!
Why exactly is skeleton called skeleton?
According to the website of the governing body of the sport, FIBT, (Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing), the name originates from the early days of the sport in Switzerland. In 1892, an Englishman, Mr. Child, surprised his sports friends with a new sled made mostly from metal. The newly designed sled apparently resembled a human skeleton, and the name stuck. Alternative suggestions include that the name “Skele” instead derives from an incorrect Anglicization of the Norwegian word, “Kjaelke”, or ‘toboggan’.
How is skeleton judged?
The system by which “skeleton” is judged is surprisingly simple – the athlete with the fastest cumulative time over their four Olympic racing heats, or ‘runs’, is the winner. The hard part comes in determining the ‘start order’ of each race, and in the timing of the race itself. FIBT rules mandate that race-times must be measured to within 1/100th of a second to ensure accuracy.