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Skeleton: cloud 9 or utterly bonkers?

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posted on Feb, 20 2010 @ 08:15 AM
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While we sit back and enjoy the vicarious thrill of competitors hurtling down the Whistler track at well over 80mph, spare a thought for the competitors. Just another day at the office? Think again:


WHISTLER, - Months before Turn 16 at the Whistler Sliding Centre took the life of young Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, it bit Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth in an eerily similar high-speed crash so devastating that — for a time — it robbed her of her will to compete.

Hollingsworth, the top-ranked skeleton slider in the world going into the Olympic Games, is one of a growing number of sliders who readily admit racing down this icy track at world-record speeds frankly scares the ****** out of them.

The 29-year-old from Eckville, Alta., who won bronze in Turin in 2006, crashed numerous times in training last year at this track, carved into the southeast face of Blackcomb Mountain.

It was the last and final spill following a string of crashes at the 1,450-metre track that plunges 152 metres through 16 turns — a virtual waterfall of ice.

"I had numerous crashes, which for me is new territory," said Hollingsworth. "In 14 years I'd only had two crashes. Here I crashed at every corner."

But the last one on Turn 16 was the worst.

"I hit the short wall and the sled came into my face and I got two stitches. That was the big thing for me. I had to stop training. My head just couldn't take it."

When she returned months later for team trials in October, her psyche rebelled. She began having anxiety attacks. Her body would not let her go up the hill.

She started lower down the course, in Turn 3 instead of from the top and it was only encouragement from teammates that eventually got her back up the mountain.

"I was able to push well and slide through that with those feelings. I felt like I'd overcome that fear," she said.

Turn 16 is the fastest corner on the track, the final curve before sliders cross the finish line and roar up the incline of the outrun, letting gravity and friction bring them to a stop.

It comes at the end of a massive U-turn corner, a 270-degree panorama, where sliders reach speeds of 140 km/h [87 mph], pulling G-force loads of 5.

Source

Fancy a bit of that? -

Skeleton 1st-timer (sports reporter) with headcam/mic

**be honest**

(and that's just a 'normal' track)

We all know what happened to Kumaritashvili — RIP — in the luge. Even the bobsledders are wary of this track:


Latvian bobsledder Janis Minins set an unofficial world sled speed record at last February's World Cup pre-Olympic test event. His four-man sled topped out at 153.03 km/h [95 mph], beating the previous record of 149.9 km/h [93 mph] at St. Moritz, Switzerland.

During track testing, a number of bobsledders including Canadian Olympic medal winner Pierre Lueders, crashed. Many were tossed out at the track's signature turn, Corner 13, which has been dubbed "50-50" by American bobsledder Steve Holcomb, reflecting the odds of getting through it right-side up.

An hour before Kumaritashvili died, 50-50 chewed up Italian luge legend Armin Zoeggeler...

(source as above)

All I can say is r e s p e c t.

I suppose it does have its rewards:

Gold medal run

But should the limits have been pushed this far, especially as the Olympics includes competitors from nations that normally don't even make it to the other international competitions? Many sports have their inherent dangers, but have the designers of this track gone overboard in seeking to push the limits over and against safety concerns?

To facilitate educated discussion, here's the full low-down from the Whistler Sliding Centre itself.

Funny thing is: sliding sounds so gentle.

So is this just another sport? Is it right that competitors be pushed to such limits — after all the people who design the track don't have to risk their neck to use it. Furthermore, do we enjoy watching all the more knowing serious injury - even death - are real possibilities?

And, more importantly, are you game?




posted on Feb, 20 2010 @ 05:48 PM
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reply to post by pause4thought
 


Yeah that's a tough one ...

The responsibility is obviously shared .... the competitors take a calculated risk based on the organizer's ability and duty to make for a safe track. It is inexcusable, given that the organizers had more than ample time and warning to provide an exciting AND safe track that they failed to do so. Even more despicable is their response stating that the track was safe whilst making modifications after the tragic fact.

A dark day in olympic history and one which has for good reasons soured the entire experience for a great part of the audience.

I used to race motorcycles when I was growing up and understood the risks involved, the first couple of accidents ensured such understanding. Yet my risk was taken trusting that the tracks were as safe as possible and were not intended as a green light to the race organizers to take my life lightly and to skimp on my safety.

What a terrible thing to have happened, especially since it seemed preventable.

As far as myself, the BBC guy, or anyone not in the sport, I find their perspective somewhat irrelevant other than for entertainment value the same way that parachuting videos are interesting ... namely they seem scary to the lay observer but unremarkable to those involved in the occupation.



posted on Feb, 20 2010 @ 06:11 PM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 



It is inexcusable, given that the organizers had more than ample time and warning to provide an exciting AND safe track that they failed to do so. Even more despicable is their response stating that the track was safe whilst making modifications after the tragic fact.

I can see lots of head-nodding. Well said.


As far as myself, the BBC guy, or anyone not in the sport, I find their perspective somewhat irrelevant other than for entertainment value the same way that parachuting videos are interesting ... namely they seem scary to the lay observer but unremarkable to those involved in the occupation.

I think the headcam video makes it clear why some would find the experience addictive, & it served to draw me in to the story in a new way.

Surely competitors shouldn't have to worry about whether entertainment has taken precedence over safety when the course was put together in the first place. Note what Hollingsworth, the world's best, said about this track (in the OP):


Hollingsworth, the top-ranked skeleton slider in the world going into the Olympic Games, is one of a growing number of sliders who readily admit racing down this icy track [i.e. specifically the Whistler track] at world-record speeds frankly scares the ****** out of them.

The 29-year-old from Eckville, Alta., who won bronze in Turin in 2006, crashed numerous times in training last year at this track, carved into the southeast face of Blackcomb Mountain.

It was the last and final spill following a string of crashes at the 1,450-metre track that plunges 152 metres through 16 turns — a virtual waterfall of ice.

"I had numerous crashes, which for me is new territory," said Hollingsworth. "In 14 years I'd only had two crashes. Here I crashed at every corner."

Kumaritashvili's death wasn't an accident waiting to happen. It was arguably a patent inevitability when relative amateurs were being thrown into the mix!




[edit on 20/2/10 by pause4thought]



posted on Feb, 20 2010 @ 06:11 PM
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[the dreaded double post - must fix this mouse]


[edit on 20/2/10 by pause4thought]



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