Australia and Olympic Skeleton
Michelle Steele and Shaun Boyle become Australia's first Olympic skeleton representatives when they competed at the Torino Games in 2006. Steele finished 13th and Boyle 22nd. Steele made her World Cup debut in 2005, just 13 weeks after trying the sport.
The high performance skeleton program from the Australian Institute of Sport has targeted beach sprinters and track athletes producing a number of strong Australian competitors. In Vancouver, there were three Australian athletes: Anthony Deane who finished 23rd in the men’s competition and Emma Lincoln-Smith and Melissa Hoar who finished 10th and 12th respectively in the women’s.
Skeleton was part of the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz, the Swiss town which was the birthplace of the daredevil sport back in the 1800s.
At Salt Lake 2002, the men’s event returned to the official program and for the first time a women’s event was included.
Skeleton is held on the same course as the bobsleigh and luge (1200m) disciplines. Skeleton events consist of four heats run over two days, with the gold medal going to the competitor with the best aggregate time. Runs are timed electronically to 0.01 seconds with competitors travelling as fast as 130km/hr. 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.
To gain momentum, the athlete pushes the sled at the start before diving into a prone position. Athletes use spiked shoes to help them grip the ice while exploding at the start. Like in luge, the temperature of the runners are carefully monitored to ensure no-one is trying to juice their sled.