The track has had a few modifications since the tragic accident of the Georgian luge athlete last week, but Shannon is confident in his ability to perform on the fastest track in the world.
Shannon, 33 years old, from Campile, New Ross, Co Wexford, was inspired by the 4th place finish of Irish slider Clifton Wrottesley at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. Currently ranked 29th of the 30 competitors Shannon is hoping that he can produce four quality performances.
Taking place on the same runs as the Bobsleigh and Luge the Skeleton is an event where the competitor pushes their sled away from the start before they lie down on the sled facing forwards and use their bodyweight to steer the sled. Competitors can reach speeds of up to 130km/h.
Skeleton had been a part of the Winter Olympics on only two occasions, in 1928 and 1948, both times in St Moritz, the Swiss town which was the birthplace of the sport back in the 1800s.
However, at Salt Lake 2002, the men’s event returned to the official program and for the first time a women’s event was included.
Olympic skeleton events consist of two runs timed electronically to .01 seconds. The two runs will be contested the same day and the final placings will be determined by the aggregate time of the two runs. If athletes complete the competition in a tie they are awarded the same place. bobsleigh - skeleton
For the first run, the start order is based on a draw that occurs the day before the race. The start order for the second run is based on the competitor's time on the first run. Only the top 20 competitors in the men's and the top 12 in the women's event in the standings will take the second run. The athletes will start in reverse order of their respective times.
The action of leaping onto the skeleton at the start of the run. The athlete lifts his/her legs under his/her body and drops onto the skeleton in one smooth movement.
Gravitational force that holds the sled and athletes on the wall of a banked turn. A G is equal to the force of gravity.
From the German word for circle, this refers to a turn on a course that loops underneath or above to form a circle. The Whistler Sliding Centre track does not have a kreisel.
A stretch of track made up entirely of a series of left and right curves with no straight section in between.
The precise path or the optimum trajectory of the sled. The driver can achieve a faster time by keeping to the trajectory.
A protective barrier at the top of the track.
A curve on the track shaped like the Greek letter Omega.
At the start of the run, the skeleton is pushed as hard as possible over a 30- to 40-metre stretch providing momentum.
The small sled that is ridden by a single slider in the prone position. Also the name of the sport.
Skeleton athletes train up to six days a week, two to six hours per day, depending on the phase of training they are in.
Most of the speed building is done in late summer as the athletes need to build a strong fitness base for the competitive season that begins in late October. The training program for skeleton athletes is developed to allow them to be well-rested and at their fastest in February for the World Championships. Like many other sports, skeleton sliders taper, or lessen their volume of training, a few weeks out from their biggest competitions.
Following the May and June competitive season, skeleton athletes turn their focus to individual areas of improvement while maintaining the speed from the competitive season. They then integrate higher training volumes and speed drills come July and August. When not on the ice track, skeleton athletes seek out mountain bike trails and other complementary sports to help with mental agility and quick reaction time.
Hit the gym
In the gym, training sessions look different for every athlete as sliders focus on their own areas of weakness. Trainers test for strength indicators through squat lifts, bench press and power cleans, but they also focus on working the athlete’s core muscles and flexibility. Flexibility is another important for area for skeleton athletes to work on because they need a wide range of motion during the sprint — they drive the knees up for makes for a full power stride. Flexibility is also helpful for injury prevention. Similar to other sliding sports, skeleton athletes do timed sprints.
Making it work
A skeleton athlete’s focus depends on the area of the track run they are entering. At the start, it is critical to gain momentum quickly and push hard. The athlete then switches into finesse mode — becoming reactive and precise through steering using his/her weight. Athletes also focus on relaxing their muscles in an effort to absorb any chatter or bouncing of the sled runners on the ice. What works for one athlete may not work for another. Steering just takes a little nudge here and there in addition to using knees, shoulders, toe taps or little head movements for steering. The more these movements are practiced, the more comfortable and confident the athlete