RAF Skeleton: Are you Mad?
This is often a question I get asked when talking about competing at Skeleton, and the answer is probably, ‘Yes, a little.’ Especially when you are explaining that you slide down the ice head-first, with your head three inches off the ice at speeds up to 75mph.
I first became aware of the crazy sport of Skeleton when watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. GB slider Shelly Rudman won silver, however they alluded to the previous Winter Games where Alex Comber who at the time was an RAF Intelligence Officer, won the Bronze. I joined the RAF in 2006 and made it my mission to at some point to at least give it a go, 11 years on and I am hooked!
You have to be a little mad to get on the sled for the first time, but to do well you have to be an intelligent athlete. It’s about speed of reaction, memory and physical ability. In an event timed to hundredths of a second, competitors, with their chins only inches above the ice, experience similar G-forces to fast jet pilots as they launch themselves into the roller coaster of bends.
The sliding season for the RAF team starts in November with a week’s training, followed by competing at the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Championships and culminates in the UK Armed Forces Inter-Services competition in March. The sport has taken me to Austria, Germany, France and a long drive to Norway last season.
I have just competed in my fourth UK Armed Forces Inter-Services for the RAF at the Skeleton discipline in Ice Sports. Unfortunately the ladies did not achieve the result we wanted however the mens team successfully defended their title for the 11th consecutive year.
To be part of a team of like-minded individuals from different backgrounds/trades with amazing attitudes for the sport makes it an absolute delight to be a part of, whilst also learning about the wider RAF. Despite being an individual sport, the team ethos is quite unique and despite the short amount of time we actually get ‘on ice’, the team have training sessions throughout the year.
We are a fantastic spring board for athletes aspiring to represent their country at the sport. The team currently has one athlete heading to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea to represent New Zealand, another representing South Africa in the European cup and we have recently had an athlete selected for Elite Athlete Status to start training with the GB set up and hopefully go on to represent GB in the European Cup, World Circuit and seek attendance at an Olympics in the future.
Trials for the forthcoming Skeleton season will be held on a date to be confirmed in September. Trials will include sprints, explosive strength and power tests. If you have a great attitude (are a bit bonkers) and are interested in having a go at this crazy adrenaline fuelled sport please email Cpl Claire Watts or call on 01480 52451 extension 4233
By Cpl Claire Watts