Andy Wood's Blog

GB Skeleton Athlete

Visitor to the track!

Yesterday we were warming up at the top of the track before our training session, when we had a visitor turn up:


October 30, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | 2 Comments

Early days in Whistler

A quick update as there’s no internet where we are staying and I’ve gotta get back for dinner soon!

We’ve arrived in Whistler, had a day off yesterday, although that was taken up with gym training.  Today we took a trip to the Olympic Village which will be home for 2800 athletes and staff during the Winter Olympic Games.  It’s mostly accommodation although there’s also a gym on site, a giant food hall and entertainment areas etc.  Although they’re not far off finishing, It’s still mostly a building site which means our guided tour was restricted to the view from our mini-van as we drove around the site!   There are a couple of pictures below:

Guided tour of Olympic VillageOlympic Village Accommodation

Track walking

We also did a track walk today.  We wear studded shoes which allows us to walk on the ice of the bobsleigh track and we walk down studying the curves and try to get a feel for what we need to do in training.  Our coach Mickey Grunberger gives us information about what steers to try etc.

Tomorrow is the 1st day of training, although I will only be spectating as I am sharing the number of runs with another British athlete.  There’s still a lot that can be learnt from watching the other sliders through the curves.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | Leave a comment

1st place in GB selection!

A good day in the office!

Having finished 2nd place in the first of our selection races, I knew only a win would be good enough in the 2nd race,  for selection to the World Cup circuit.

The 3 days of training were not ideal preparation for our race.  The outside temperature had got warmer and the track had become frosty for the 3 days, meaning slow times.  On day 1 of training, I made a decision to only do 1 run as the track was deteriorating through the session.  The track held up for 2 fairly slow runs on the second day, although I took a gamble on the third and final day of training upon inspection of the track, to not slide at all.  The decision could have backfired as the other guys continued to slide, even though the heavy rain and wind had blown loads of dirt into the track, which normally causes runners to be scratched.  The weather forecast had predicted our race day to be colder which indicated that the track would be quicker, and it was.

2 good runs and I was in 1st place and ahead of Ant Sawyer in 2nd place by 0.59 of a second.  From the 2 races, we both had 10 selection points for a win, and 8 for a second place which meant a tie on 18 points.  In the event of a tie, the decision goes down to accumulative time over the 4 runs.  Ant was only ahead of me by 0.01 of a second from the first race, so with my lead of 0.59 from the second race, I lead overall by 0.58 of a second and therefore selected for the World Cup circuit!

Next stop Whistler, the venue of the Winter Olympic Games in February, for some training and a cup race.  Then it’s off to Park City for the first World Cup race of the season.

October 24, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | 5 Comments

GB Selection Race #2, Lake Placid USA

Selection Race 2 Time Sheet

October 24, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive, Race Time Sheets | Leave a comment

Rear view skeleton run

Here’s a video of Patrick Singleton going down the Lake Placid track earlier today.  The camera is fixed to the back of his sled, looking backwards.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | Leave a comment

1st week in Lake Placid, USA

No sign of any 30-foot-long man-eating crocodiles here, although there is a bobsleigh track!

Lake Placid, our 2nd port of call on our international merry-go-round, is one of my favourite locations we visit.  It’s a fairly quiet town with one main street, and it’s hard to believe they managed to hold a Winter Olympic Games here in 1980.

After a fairly troublesome introduction to my new sled in Winterberg, I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence in the lead-up to the first GB selection race of the season.  However, it seemed that my sled was better suited to the fast twists and turns of the track here, than the slow meandering German track.  I think I’m starting to get a better feel and understanding of the sled too.

Battle woundsThe 3 days of training prior to the race were ok, I set some competitive times while picking up some big bruises on my arms and ribs (which have since turned a nice shade of black) and I also broke a visor!  I was on the pace of my rivals and we were all switching positions, so it was impossible to predict an outcome for the race.

The race day couldn’t have been more tense!  After the first run I was 3 hundredths of a second behind Ant Sawyer.  I beat Ant on the second run, but only by 2 hundredths of a second.  I lost 1st place by 1 hundredth of a second!  That’s quicker than a blink of an eye or a click of your fingers.  It’s not a bad result as there’s still 1 more race to go.  If I win the second race by more than 1 hundredth of a second, I’ll be on the World Cup circuit until Christmas.

Next GB selection race:  Friday 23rd October.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | Leave a comment

GB Selection Race #1, Lake Placid USA

Great Britain have 3 athlete positions on the World Cup circuit this coming season, for both the men’s and the women’s fields.

2 men and 2 women have been pre-selected and do not need to compete in the national qualifiers:

Adam Pengilly, Kristan Bromley

Shelley Rudman, Amy Williams

There will be 2 selection races in Lake Placid, with points given for each position.  The top ranked male and female from these 2 selection races will qualify for the World Cup circuit, along with the pre-selected athletes.  The other athletes will compete on the 2nd tier circuit, the Intercontinental Cup.  The 2nd placed athletes in the selection races will also travel to Whistler with the World Cup squad for a week of training on the Olympic track, before commencing with the Intercontinental Cup circuit.

Selection Race #1 Time Sheet

Race 2 will be held on Friday 23rd October.  If there is a tie on points, it’ll come down to accumulative time.

This is not selection for the Olympic Winter Games.  This selection will occur at the half way point through the winter season.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive, Race Time Sheets | Leave a comment

Lobotomy Please!

I’ve never had as much pain in my head from sliding as I do now. The track in Winterberg was so bumpy in places, it felt like my brain was rattling around. It got to the point where I dreaded going through the last corner on the track as it was by far the worst part. I’m sure I have a bruised brain now…

Luckily we’ve finished with the Winterberg track for now as we’re making our way towards Lake Placid USA, via Geneva in Switzerland.

It wasn’t a very good week for me to be honest. I’m on a new sled this season, like most people on our team, and I’m struggling to get to grips with it. It’s much more responsive than my old sled, so much that I discovered I could get down the track on a good line by just tilting my head in the desired direction! Every day we took the sled apart, making some changes to try and lose the responsiveness before testing it on the track the next day. The sled can be configured many different ways to make it stiffer or more flexible. I think I was getting close to my best setup by the end of our week in Germany.

The track and weather conditions made things difficult too. We had 1 or 2 days of clear skies, then the heavens opened and we had heavy rain the rest of the week. Some of the track’s covered but the top few straights were wide open and resembled a water slide at a swimming pool. I’m not exaggerating. During one of my runs, I hit a 3 metre span of water that had settled in a dip in the track and the rate of deceleration was immense! A lot of water managed to spray up between my helmet and face, leaving water droplets all over the inside and outside of my visor, giving me virtually no visibility for the rest of the run, it was pretty scary! Then there was the huge ridge in the track a bit further down. Coming out of one of the corners, everyone would hit a build-up of ice and get air between themselves and their sled. It felt like being hit by a car from underneath.

Let’s hope the track in Lake Placid’s a bit smoother!

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | 4 Comments

And the lucky winner is…


Yep, we’re in Germany.  Luckily after the problems with the Cesana bobsleigh track in Italy, the German federation allowed us to come to Winterberg in Germany and do some training on their track.  We won’t be racing here, although it gives us a good period of time to test our new sleds and get up to speed with them before we head off to Lakep Placid in the States for our GB selection race.  It’s also good to catch up with all our skeleton friends after the long summer!

I’ve found my new sled to be quite sensitive, which means that I need to be more gentle with my steering.  Yesterday was our first day on the ice this season and I found myself steering way too hard and creating some very different lines down the track compared to what I’m used to!  In the long term it’s great, it’ll give me more options for lines down all the bobsleigh tracks.  At the moment however, I’m turning the sled too much which kills the speed.  The track here’s quite bumpy so it’ll take a bit longer to get the feel of this sled, but it’s coming along…

We’re here until Sunday then we drive down to Geneva for our trans-atlantic flight.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | 1 Comment

Ice making.

Well, the GB skeleton team were due to travel to Cesana in Italy today, for our first of two selection races.  According to reports, there is an issue with the refridgeration plant at the Cesana bobsleigh track and there’s no longer any ice on the track!  Major problem.  Even if they were to fix the problem today, it would still probably take a few days for the track workers to build the ice back up, layer by layer, along the full length of the 1,435 m track.  At present we’re grounded in the UK, awaiting a decision on when and where to travel.

As I’m sat waiting for information, I might as well tell you a bit about how the bobsleigh tracks work!

track pipingBobsleigh tracks are generally up and running from the beginning of October until March.  For ice to be maintained on the tracks during milder weather spells, the concrete tracks are built with thousands of metres of piping running through the structure, in order to pump through chilled ammonia. You can see the piping running through the cross section of the track in the picture.

The ammonia refridgerates the track, then it’s down to the track workers to walk down the track with a hose and spray water onto the concrete, allowing a thin layer of ice to form.  This has to be done several times each day, over the course of several days for the ice to build up.

Once the whole track has a good thickness of ice on it, the workers can then start to shave the ice.  A huge razor on the end of a broomstick sounds pretty basic, but the track workers are highly skilled in shaping the ice to the desired profile.

Why shave the ice?  Bobsleigh tracks, especially the corners, are not designed to send us from one corner to the next without us having to do anything.  That would make the sport very boring and require no skill!  In fact, most corners are shaped so that unless we control the sled through the corner by steering, we’ll be aimed slightly (sometimes agressively!) towards one of the walls on either side of the track, once we exit the corner.  Athletes have to learn what steers are required to make sure they come out of each corner going in a straight line towards the next one.

So once we know what steers to do on a certain track, it’ll be the same the next time we go there, right?  Nope.  This is where the ice shaving comes into play.  The track staff can manipulate the characteristics of each corner by adding a bit more ice here, or taking it out there.  This changes the natural line through the corner and means we have to adapt our steering to get a clean exit again.  Only having 6 runs down a track before most competitions means that we have only 6 chances to perfect our lines through up to 19 corners!   Fast learning and a good memory are required.

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Blog Archive | Leave a comment