Olympic24: Thomas leads British charge at Paris-Nice

Olympic24: Thomas leads British charge at Paris-Nice

Geraint Thomas puts in another solid showing on stage two of Paris-Nice, while Neil Black looks forward to the battle of Britain’s hepathletes. ...


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Considered the world’s first sliding sport, skeleton was started in the Swiss town of St. Moritz in the late 1800s. The first competition was held in 1884 when riders raced down the road from St. Moritz to Celerina which became known as the ‘Cresta Run’ and the winner received a bottle of champagne. It was not until 1887 that riders began competing in the prone position used today. It is unclear how the sport received its name with a number of explanations including the miss-pronunciation of Norwegian, to the metal sleds looking like a human skeleton or resembling the ‘skeleton’ of a bobsleigh.

It wasn’t until 1905 that the first competition took place outside of Switzerland and in 1923, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et Tobagganing (FIBT), now formally known as the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation was founded. Three years later bobsleigh and skeleton were declared Olympic sports.

Olympic History

Skeleton is Team GB’s most successful winter sport of recent times, winning a medal in the past 3 Olympic Winter Games – bronze in 2002, silver in 2006 and gold in 2010.  It is also Team GB’s second most successful winter sport ever, behind figure skating.

Skeleton had been a part of the Olympic Winter Games on five occasions, the first two being in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz, the Swiss town which was the birthplace of the sport back in the 1800s.

The sport was reintroduced in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Games where both men’s and women’s events took place. It has been part of the Games since then.


Skeleton is held on one of the artificially refrigerated ice tracks around the world which vary in length from around 1200 to 1500m and have a vertical drop between 110m and 130m.

Skeleton is made up of 2 phases:

1.    The Start – where athletes aim to push the sled as quickly as possible using explosive power for 20-30m before jumping onto the sled.

2.    Driving the Sled – after pushing athletes leap onto the sled into the most aerodynamic position with their head centimeters from the ice.  They aim to drive the sled into and out of the corners of the track keeping the perfect line.  Athletes steer with combination of shifting their body weight, head position, knees, shoulders and feet

Athletes compete on four circuits the World Cup, Intercontinental Cup, European Cup and North American Cup.  The World Cup is the highest level and the one all athletes strive towards.  Of course the Olympics is the athletes’ ultimate goal every four years and the World Championships takes place in every year when it is not the Olympic Winter Games.

Skeleton competitions consist of 2 runs in one day, apart from at the World Championships and the Olympics where skeleton is a 4 run event over 2 days, with the gold medal going to the competitor with the best aggregate time.

Runs are timed electronically to the nearest hundredth of a second.

Athletes can reach over 140Km/h and the maximum g-force is 5g which can only last for 2 seconds, 4g can last for 3 seconds.

Only the prone position is allowed, although competitors who come off the sled temporarily, are not disqualified if they cross the finish line back on the sled.

There is a limit of 30 athletes in the men's event and 25 in the women's.

In the second run, only the top 20 from the first run can start. They start in reverse order of finishing time in the first run.


The sport of skeleton utilises sleds with a steel frame, a carbon fibre base plate, a steel saddle that holds the rider and two steel runners.

They are highly technical and customised to the individual athlete and can be adapted to the different ice conditions.

Sleds have no brakes or steering devices, athletes have to use both visual and feeling clues to steer themselves around the corners of the track.

Sleds can be between 80 and 120cm long and 8 to 20 cm high and are the same dimensions for men and women.

In the men’s competition, the maximum weight of sled and driver, including equipment, is 115 kilograms. The sled alone may not weigh more than 33kg. In the women’s event, the weight of sled and driver, including equipment, may not be more than 92kg. The maximum weight of the sled alone is 29 kg.

A sled can cost between £6,000 - £15,000 but with the innovation and technology that goes into high performance sleds they can be worth around £100,000.

The athletes wear a skin tight suit to cut down on aerodynamic drag and a protective helmet.  They wear specialist running spikes, called ‘brush spikes’ with over 300 needles in them to help them grip the ice at the start.


Competition Format

There are quotas for each nation taking part in the Olympics based on their World Ranking over the course of the International Competition Season.

Olympic skeleton events consist of four runs timed electronically to .01 seconds. The four runs are contested over two days and the winner is determined by the aggregate time of the four runs. If athletes complete the competition in a tie they are awarded the same place.

Start order

For the games in 2014 a new system for allocating starting positions has been introduced. The top ranked athlete in the world can chose their starting number, followed by the second ranked athlete and continuing until all athletes have selected their number.

The starting order in each run is, 1st race heat: from 1 to the end, 2nd race heat: from 20 to 1 and from 21 to the end, according to the ranking of the first race heat, 3rd race heat: from 1 to the end, according to the ranking after two race heats, 4th race heat: from 20 to 1, according to the ranking after three race heats.

Team HeroesEntire Team

Alex Coomber won a bronze medal in the women's skeleton at her debut Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, 2002.

Coomber had to cope with heavy snow and undesirable weather conditions, but despite this, posted a time of 52.48 secs w...

John Crammond won a bronze medal at the St. Mortiz 1948 Olympic Winter Games in the men's skeleton. These were his debut Games, where Team GB only won one other medal; Jeannette Altweggs bronze in women's Figure Skating. Incredibly...

Amy Williams won Team GB's only gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in women's skeleton, despite this being her debut Games. In winning gold Williams became Team GB’s first individual Olympic Winter Games gold me...

David Ludovic George Hopetoun Carnegie, 11th Earl of Northesk, competed at the St. Moritz 1928 Olympic Winter Games representing Team GB. He won the only medal for Britian from these Games; a bronze in the men's skeleton.

Carnegie b...

Lizzy Yarnold won Great Britain's first gold medal of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics after dominating the women's skeleton from start to finish. Yarnold, 25, produced a solid final run to finish 0.97 seconds ahead of Noelle Pikus-Pace o...

Our Results

Total: 6 medals
  • 2 Gold
  • 1 Silver
  • 3 Bronze
St Moritz 1928
  • 0 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
St Moritz 1948
  • 0 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
Salt Lake City 2002
  • 0 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 1 Bronze
Turin 2006
  • 0 Gold
  • 1 Silver
  • 0 Bronze
Vancouver 2010
  • 1 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 0 Bronze
Sochi 2014
  • 1 Gold
  • 0 Silver
  • 0 Bronze
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