Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Whizzer Weekend

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Whizzer Weekend

Article excerpt


THE chute of ice twisted down the mountain. I tried to imagine hurtling down it at nearly 80mph, and felt sick. "By the time you hit the last curve," said our bobsleigh coach Tony Wallington, veteran of seven Winter Olympics, "you'll be pulling about 5G. That's what you get flying an F-16 fighter."

I tried to imagine what I'd normally have to do to put on 45 stone, but that didn't make me feel any better.

We were standing beside the bobsleigh track built for the 1994 Winter Olympics held in * i l lehamme r, Norway.

National bob teams still train here, but individuals can also pay to fling themselves down the icy drainpipe, just for fun.

This season, for the first time, a new adrenaline high goes on sale: a weekend run by Tony - who, as performance director at the Nagano Olympics in 1998, helped secure Britain's only medal - including a day spent whizzing down the track on a variety of craft.

First we climbed into a "bobraft", which looked like a giant blue rubbery bathtub.

Four of us donned crash helmets, piled in behind a professional driver, and slithered down - a gentle introduction, supposedly, at around 45 mph.

At first I enjoyed the way the scenery, and the pine trees dusted in fresh snow, swung around us rollercoaster-style, but after one mile of track and 16 curves, I could barely hold my head up to see the view.

Next descent was to be solo, head first, tummy down, on a heavy metal sled that looked like a sawn-off stretcher, with the rather offputting name of "skeleton". As we padded up like American footballers, Tony explained what to do.

"Don't try to steer, or you'll bounce like a pinball; just relax. If you do become separated from your skeleton, keep calm."

I lay down on my sled, stiff upper lip about two inches off the surface of the ice, and concentrated hard on not screaming. …

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