Journey To The 2010 Winter Olympics

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You're Pretty Sure You'll Never Be the Next Great Skeleton Racer

"Let's be honest, if there was one gold medal out there that I could, in theory, win, it'd be in the skeleton, right? Since barely anybody in the world even knows how to do it and all... " - You

The above is a little humor from an article written shortly after Duff Gibson's gold medal performance in Torino in February. It doesn't contain the most accurate skeleton info, but it's a very funny read. Check it out.

It has come to my attention that my readers and potential sponsors might like to know a little more about the process of becoming the next great skeleton racer. Makes sense as the article states barely anyone knows how to do it at all. The following is a brief description of the skeleton athlete's progression in the sport and my progress to date. Oh, there's a little about expenses too...

Can anyone do it? Well, the USBSF makes a cut before they even see you if that tells you anything. You must have a good athletic resume or perform well on the 4-item test (30m from standing, 30m flying-in, 5 hop, vertical leap) at a recruiting event to be invited to Push Camp. In June 2006, I met with USBSF Strength and Conditioning Coach, Greg Sand, at the OTC in Chula Vista, CA, to discuss the sport and my prospects. It was from that meeting (not to mention a series of fantastic and fortunate events that landed that meeting) that I gained my invitation to Push Camp.

At Push Camp, athletes complete the 4-item test and are taught how to push a sled using the two-hand method. You are judged on a variety of qualities including athleticism, natural push technique, motivation, coachability and the flexibility in your life. With a good performance there, you receive an invitation to Skeleton School; about half of the participants at Push Camp received an invitation. I was a standout on the push track with naturally efficient movements and I performed well on the 4-item test, but there is room for improvement. Prior to camp, I worked mainly on sprinting and it showed in my 4-item test results. Since, I have added a lower body power component to my workouts that will help performance on the jump tests and lead to faster start times- more later in a training update. I received a Tier 1 Skeleton School Invitation out of Push Camp.

The next great skeleton racer gets on the ice for the first time at Skeleton School. There athletes learn all things skeleton from how to drive a sled at 70mph to runner maintenance. The school in Lake Placid/ November also includes sprint training, the 4-item test and International training "watch and learn" at the Verizon Sports Complex. Successful athletes are invited to join the United States Development Program for Skeleton.

New U.S. Development Program athletes will begin training in January 2007 in Lake Placid. At this juncture, athletes purchase the major gear (a sled and other racing items) necessary to become a slider and compete. This training session lasts approximately eight weeks with time typically spent between the track and the OTC, sliding and training. It could depend on performance during that time or qualifying runs, but around the first of March sliders compete in Regional Championships. The goal for that race is to qualify for U.S. National Team Trials.

National Team Trials are used to determine the membership of the next season's World Cup, Europa Cup and America's Cup Teams. In an Olympic year, performance in the current season's World Cup races determines whether or not you participate in the Games! For more information on this process see the USBSF Athlete Selection Procedures.

Piece of cake right? Well, at least the writer of the aforementioned article was close on the financial challenges of the Olympic hopeful. He wrote,
"There are other problems, too, though. First, it seems to you like you have to be independently wealthy to be an Olympic athlete. That, or get a bunch of sponsors, but who sponsors skeleton athletes? Otherwise, how do you make a living while you're wasting your life for four years training to be a top skeletoner? Now, I don't know about the time wasting part, and the "skeletoner" bit is way off, but financing is a tough proposition. Including Skeleton School, expenses are approaching $3,000. Assuming I achieve the desired result next month, they'll balloon to over $11,000 by January. On a student's budget this is impossible! Skeleton sponsors: please let me know if you would like more information on my expense projections/ refer to the post on the USBSF ATF for sponsorship details.


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