The Skeleton: 7 things you need to know about this Winter Olympic sport


Team GB athletes competing in the crazy sport of Skeleton won two bronze medals and a gold over the weekend at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Lizzie Yarnold became the first Briton to ever defend a Winter Olympic title.

I WON THE OLYMPICS, AGAIN!!!!! #HistoryMaker

— Lizzy Yarnold (@TheYarnold) 17 February 2018

Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain during a World Cup event.

But, what are the origins of such a crazy sport, and what do the athletes have to do to maximise their chances of achieving glory?

Here are 7 key facts about the skeleton that you need to know.

1 –  The discipline was born at the famous Cresta Run in St Moritz, Switzerland. This run is almost 1.25 kilometers long and is extremely challenging.  A favourite destination of many skiers and party seekers, the resort has hosted the annual Grand National Championships for over 130 years, and in 1887, saw competitors career down the icy course head first for the first time.

2 – The Skeleton got its name from the sleds that were designed for the event. The event was known as Cresta Sliding, as this was the only place where the event could take place. However, in 1892, new sleds, made from steel, had a tubular structure on the top side, that some believed had a bony resemblance. Since then, the sport has been known as Skeleton.

Laura Deas of Great Britain starts a run on the Skeleton Sled

3 – Until 2002, Skeleton had only been present at two Olympiad. Both times in St Moritz, in 1928 and 1948, as the Cresta Run was the only course suitable for the event.

4- The sleds being used by Lizzie Yarnold and Dom Parsons are now made from a variety of materials, but the main body of the sled must be made from steel according to international competition rules. Unlike a lot of sporting technology these days, the sled is intentionally heavier than you may expect, this is to maximise the effect of gravity on the run down the course. Combined weight for sled and rider must not exceed 115KG for men and 92KG for women.  The runners are also made of steel, and the baseplate is made from carbon fibre, as it is rigid and light, and great for steering. It is moulded to force air beneath the underside of the sled to minimise drag.

5- The sleds have no brakes. Yes, that’s correct. No brakes. Travelling at speeds of up to 80mph on ice, these sleds rely on the rider to provide the braking force by digging in with their toes and using their body as an air brake by sitting up once they cross the line.

6- The sleds are highly individual and customisable. Like setting up a race car for a certain track, the rider can select a sharper “knife” on their runner, if the ice is particularly hard for example. This means that the sled can cut into the ice more easily and gives the sled more stability at high speed. The shape of the saddle that holds the rider in place is also custom moulded to their body shape.

7 – This isn’t a cheap sport. The top-level sleds can set you back anywhere between £6,000 and £15,000.  That’s the same as a family hatchback! Not ideal if you slam it into the wall on your first run and shatter the carbon fibre baseplate.

A family car would cost less than some of the sleds used by the athletes.

If you are interested in Skeleton, or any other sliding event, visit the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association website to see how you can get involved and throw yourself headfirst into this exciting sport.