Headfirst by Robie Vaughn, with Mike Towle

Q: If you were to describe skeleton to someone who had never heard of the sport what would you tell them?

A: Imagine lying down on a sled, headfirst and sliding downhill on smooth, slick ice with no way to brake and limited ways to steer. You go faster and faster, and the turns come at you quicker and quicker, as the accompanying G-forces take more and more of a toll, until your speed finally begins to slow and you glide to a stop. Your mind is unable to comprehend what it just experienced and your adrenaline continues flowing for hours!

Q: How does one get involved with skeleton sliding? Where does he or she go and what should one know?

A: There are three bobsled, luge and skeleton sliding tracks in North America: Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Lake Placid, New York; and Park City, Utah. Additionally, there is a fourth venue currently being constructed in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Calgary, Lake Placid and Park City offer introductory, one-and three-day clinics along with “Fantasy Camps.” Further reference may be obtained from the Alberta Skeleton Association (www.albertaskeleton.ca) and the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (www.usbsf.com).

Q: How does one train to become a better slider, and are there certain exercises or workouts that might help?

A: Getting used to the sensation and experience of sliding and developing a thorough knowledge of safety and equipment is initially important. Secondly, getting as many runs in as possible (maximum of 3 per day) is necessary. You must have proper coaching in order to improve. Ultimately, utilizing fast-twitch muscle fibers for a fast push and an aerodynamic body position are important as well.

Q: When you first found out that skeleton was not on the Winter Olympic ballot nor had it been for over fifty years, what where your first thoughts on the situation?

A: That it was so exciting, it probably would be admitted to the Olympics, especially as bobsled and luge had been in for so long and it used the same facility.

Q: What inspired you to connect with this sport to the point that you dedicated so much of your time and energy in getting involved? What was the turning point?

A: The sliding experience itself, the possibility of improvement, the people involved, and the obvious void in leadership and organization. The initial “turning point” for me was making the World Cup Team for the 1998-1999 season. I could then see what was needed for a program to be successful from an athlete’s point of view.

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