OK, so how hard can it be. I mean all I have to do is sit there and the world number 5 driver and one of his brakemen will do all the work in getting me to the bottom safely, right? I had seen the course from driving up a number of times and was aware that we ‘could’ reach high speeds but I mean all I had to do was sit there and ‘enjoy the ride….’ Bobsleigh is a sport done either in a two man or four man bobsleigh. The guys that do this sport are high intensity and explosive athletes. They live life going fast. I was now done to have a ‘taxi’ ride down one of the so called easiest tracks in the world. Worried? None of it. I have been fast on my skis in downhill races but have always been in control when doing that, here I was in the hands of someone else.
So the British Championships were over and John Jackson had won his fourth and fifth British Titles. Jackson is a full time athlete now thanks to his success on the World Cup and yet still maintains a role with the Royal Marines. Jackson would be our driver and we would go down in ‘George Fourman,’ the sled that had taken him to fifth in the 2013 World Championships in February. While the sled had a change of runners prior to us jumping in, this was basically the same sled that had been used the week before in the Test events for Sochi the week before.
First in was Bruce Tasker. Tasker is one of the two powerhouses who along with Stu Benson and Joel Fearon, get the sled moving as fast as possible at the top of the course. While we were not jumping in on the go, we would get the nice leisurely entry, comfort is not a requirement for the sled. A bar with a little padding at my backside was all I had for ‘comfort’. With Sarah from the BOA sitting in front of me and then Jacko up front. As soon as the sled was pushed off, there was no getting out of the sled. Next stop was the finish, some 1400metres away. Scared? None of it. Excited, yes.
As we left the start, Jacko raises his hands and casually tells us he will see how far he can go with no hands. Nervous laughter from Sarah and myself. The first turn is gentle, the next gives you a feeling of the camber you will experience at some of the corners later down. The 270 degree Kreizel turn awaits some 20 seconds away. We were told to look up and look for the exit of each turn so that the G Forces did not become too much and also so we could enjoy the ride.
Turn three looked easy on the ride up yet by the time we are riding it, the speed and leisureliness had definitely gone. By the time we came into Kreizel, this was the big turn. This is the glamour shot of sleds coming round and where I had spent some of the day before and that morning taking shots. Completely different feeling watching and being in the sled!
After here I was in the dark as I had not learnt the track to know which way my head would be buffeted. Left then right, big G’s and sweeping turns. by the time I felt Bruce pull the brakes up as we crossed the line, I had no idea where we were. I got out as the sled came to a halt and all I could feel was a grin. Travelling at 120 kmh had been fun but having no control was a new experience. From leaving the start, you cannot use the brakes as this will ruin the track. You are completely reliant on the driver using his skill to get you down (as fast as possible!). With the runners that the sled rides on costing up to Â£15,000 for a set of four, this is not a cheap sport.
Did I enjoy it: YES!. Would I do it again, hopefully! If you like speed and live on adrenaline, then give this a go. I am not a noisy person but it took me about 15 minutes after we arrived in the finish area to regain my thoughts. I was still living the buzz.
Many thanks to GB Bobsleigh for arranging this for me.
You can pay to go down the Igls track during the winter, for more information go to www.olympiaworld.at