As any true sports fan should, I take it upon myself to defend the honour of all forms of athletic competition when they come under fire from the ignorant “sports are for Neanderthals” type. People who glance at the TV and snort “What a bum, I could have saved that,” as Roberto Luongo lets a soft one go between his legs. Never mind that Luongo spent the previous 59 minutes using every part of his body, including a neck goitre, to stop 40 shots of frozen rubber blurring by at 160 kilometres per hour.
But some sports don’t leave me much ammo to defend them with. I can argue the subtle intricacies of cricket, the beauty of soccer and the toughness of rodeo, but the newly re-introduced Olympic sport of skeleton racing is another story.
Skeleton racing: a sport where competitors drive a sled in a prone, head-first position for a kilometre-and-a-half down an icy track as fast as possible. Yep, those are pretty much all the rules you need to know. It doesn’t sound complicated, and it’s not. How the hell did this Sunday afternoon, hot-chocolate-and-bonfire, family activity get into the Olympics? I don’t remember anyone in lab jackets asking for a cup of my urine after dad pushed me down the hill on my GT Snow Racer.
There are only a handful of people in the global skeleton community, but oh, the analytical conversations they must share. “Hey, Bro, sweet shoulder manipulation on turn 16. I’m so, like, totally into how you just laid there on the sled and, you know…slid. Epic, dude.”
It’s not that I’m dead-set against skeleton racing, but we already have the two-man bobsleigh and the four-man bobsleigh, the single luge and the two-man luge. Do we really need the skeleton? How many minute variations do we need to get down a damn hill? CBC’s coverage of the 2022 Winter Games might sound like this: “Ohh, what a magnificent run by the powerful German. He’s a true pioneer of the double-grip purple crazy-carpet in the 132 cm division. Just like his brother was in the more traditional sport of spinning-snow-biscuit-with-a-ski-doo-aided-start.”
I’m not saying I’d be able to keep my shorts clean during a skeleton run. Riders reach speeds somewhere around 130 kilometres per hour, and the G-force in the turns will shake the fillings from your teeth. In 2001, a Latvian skeleton racer died when he was impaled by the blade of a bobsleigh that had been left on the track. I guess the skeleton relay is out of the question.
Granted, the sport fills the extreme-adrenaline quota, but how many kids grow up watching Skeleton Night in Canada and say “That’s it dad, forget college. A professional tobogganner is what I wanna be?” Are parents building skeleton tracks behind the lawnmower shed so Jimmy and Sally and the Bouchards can come over for a few timed heats?
Hey, but what the hell do I care if the sport seems a tad ridiculous? Canada dominates skeleton racing like soft wristshots dominate Jos