The racer sits atop a sled equipped with no brakes or steering.
Speeding along at 90 mph in a car can be frightening. Achieving that speed using only gravity, with nothing but a thin sled between you and rock-hard ice is unimaginable to all but a select few humans. Skeleton sledder John Daly is one such person.
Even to avid sports fans, the sensation of moving through a bobsled track at well over highway speeds is a foreign one, so CNN’s Great Big Story attached cameras to Daly during a practice run to share the experience with non-sledders. The resulting footage is a beautiful, terrifying blur that conveys the danger and excitement these racers live at every event.
At full speed, just lifting his head is a herculean effort. Yet, that strength and control is a necessity as the racer moves headfirst through the twisty course, plotting out turns two or three moves in advance under immense stress and stimulation. The racers’ sleds, which can weigh as much as 95 pounds for men, have no steering or braking mechanisms, so a cool head and lightning-fast reflexes are paramount not just to win, but to survive the series of runs.
The luge racers may reach higher speeds during their runs, but skeleton racers speed down the track headfirst, which doesn’t necessarily make for a more dangerous event, but it certainly is a more frightening one for both racers and fans.
Before competing as a sledder, Daly was a BMX racer all too aware of the dangers of speed. He made the move to skeleton after breaking both his wrists in a practice run on his bike. His Sochi Olympic dreams were crushed in 2014, when he slipped at the beginning of his final run, causing him to fall from medal contention to 15th place. Daly is seeking redemption at the Pyeongchang Games.