Story and Photos by Richard Hyde (with photos by Adam Taber –www.adamtaberphotography.ca)
Friday January 27th was a day for two lucky boys to cross one off their Bucket Lists.
ISN’s Owner Scott Harrigan and Photographer Richard Hyde made the trip to the Media Orientation day at the Whistler Sliding Centre. ISN will be covering the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton event there Feb 2nd to 4th.
We were made very welcome by all the staff at the Sliding Centre. We immediately ran into the Team Russia head coach, Malcolm “Gomer” Lloyd. Who funnily enough is from West Wales in the UK. He explained how sliding events are a huge tradition in the British Army and those roots go back to the beginnings of the sport. He has coached many of the worlds’ top sliders including our own Pierre Lueders and is a former British Army Soldier and slider himself.
Sliding sports come in three disciplines. Luge, Skeleton and Bobsleigh. The fastest of the three is Luge. The sleds have knife type runners and obviously aerodynamics play a big part in the speeds they achieve. The Luge is steered somewhat by squeezing the legs together on the end of the runner guides. Next is Skeleton and is named this as the sled is basically two round tube type runners and a platform just big enough for the torso. No way to steer. You’re on your own with gravity as soon as you push off. Finally Bobsleigh. Speeds here are very close to the others but obviously there is a lot of wind resistance on a Bob. What it does have in it’s favour though is mass. Especially with Scott and myself in one! Skeleton funnily enough is the safest of the three sports with Luge being the most dangerous. We paid our respects while there to the Georgian Luger “Nodar Kumaritashvili” who as you are probably aware died on this track on Olympic opening day in 2010.
Team Canada Girls training run near start
Skeleton in turn 13
Alexander Tretiakov in Thunderbird. 140KMH + Track maintenance guy watches on…
The full Whistler Sliding Track is 16 turns, 1,450 m (4,760 ft) in length with a vertical drop of 152 m (499 ft). Average gradient is 10.5%. Luge Men’s and Women’s start lower down the track respectively as I’m sure time travel would be achieved if they started from the top. Scott and I got to run with Pierre Lueders in a four man Bob with a staff member making up the 4. We ran from the Ladies Luge start. 1193 m and 14 or the 16 corners. We were told we may hit 124 KMH, 125 if we were lucky. But remember the mass thing from earlier?? We hit 126.1 KMH and had a time of 42.99 seconds. But lets put that into perspective??? The Women’s Luge track record set by Natalie Geisenberger (GER) is 48.992 seconds. So in a non pushed start sit upright Bobsleigh we experienced a ride of a lifetime that is 5 seconds off the record for that length of track! It was like no experience we have ever had. Not scary in the slightest. But OMGoodness was is fast. As you can see from the video. Both Scott and I jumped out at the finish and said we wanted another go……right now. I have rally raced, owned sport bikes, been in military helicopters and NOTHING compares. We were pulling almost 3.5 G’s in turn 16, Thunderbird. It really made you want to duck down and again you can see in the video all our heads bobbing down in unison as the G forces come up.
The great news is you don’t need to know someone to experience the same thing. Whistler Sliding Centre has a public sliding programme. Both Bobsleigh and Skeleton. You can go and experience what we did with the notable exception of the driver. We lucked out with Pierre Lueders, what a gentleman and great source of knowledge for the sliding sports. He is Canada’s most decorated Bobsleigh drive ever and even though retired now from competitive sport still spends most of his days on the slopes in Calgary coaching and introducing people to this fantastic sport. Check out Whistler Sliding Centre and try an get yourselves over there if you want to know more. http://www.whistlerslidingcentre.com/ ISN will be working with some transportation options to get a package deal together for visits to the facility in Whistler. Alternatively if you have sons or daughters interested in sliding sports Whistler Sports Legacies have programmes for athletes starting at age 9. They also have access to subsidised accommodations for athletes taking part in the programmes. Contact Melissa Janke at Whistler Sliding Centre for all the info.
And Away We Go!!! (Photo by Adam Taber)
Passing Through Turn 16. (Photo by Adam Taber)
Pierre Lueders and Richard Hyde. (Photo by Adam Taber)
Pierre Lueders and Scott Harrigan (Photo by Adam Taber)
Next week’s event kicks off on Thursday with the Women’s Skeleton and wraps up on Saturday with Men’s Bobsleigh. Full details can be found here: http://www.whistlerslidingcentre.com/events/fibt-bobsleigh-skeleton-world-cup
Keep clicking back as we will be posting more details on events and programmes at the Sliding Centre. Both Scott and I have vowed to return to take part in the public Skeleton programme. We thoroughly recommend you check out the web site and visit centre if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
To watch the ISN Bobsleigh run click here