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What is Skeleton?



If you want to blow away the holiday season cobwebs, consider the charms of skeleton. Despite its morbid name, the winter sport whose world cup winds up on February 17 in Sochi, Russia, is seriously invigorating.

Skeleton involves forces of up to 5g. Just try to imagine the distorting effect that pressure must have on your face as you barrel headfirst down an ice track at 85 mph on a slab of metal half your body length. The secret of success at skeleton is to start with a full sprint, followed by a hearty push as you hit your “slider.” Then you need to be hyper-alert in your steering as your slider continues its warp-speed, bone-jarring trip down the course that may be used for bobsleigh and luge.

The difference is you have no teammates. In skeleton, you compete alone, going as straight as you can, avoiding contact with walls.

Since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the sport’s popularity has ballooned. Oddly, countries that cannot field a track thanks to climate, terrain or budgetary constraints compete. Athletes from nations including Iraq, Bermuda, South Africa, Israel, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and even the Virgin Islands have all caught the skeleton bug.

The dynamic international winter sport dates back to 1882, when Swiss soldiers built a toboggan track between the towns of Davos and Klosters.

Skeleton got its name after its first participant pranged so badly that only his skeleton could be later retrieved. Actually, no, the truth is that the sport became so known after someone said that a new metal sled first used a decade after the sport’s birth resembled a skeleton.

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