The lowdown on skeleton
Medal events: 2
Dates: 13–15 February
Men’s skeleton featured on the Olympic programme at the 1928 and 1948 Olympic Winter Games, which were both held in St Moritz, where the sport originated on the famed Cresta Run. Following a 54-year absence from the Winter Games, skeleton reappeared on the programme in 2002 in Salt Lake City, when a women’s event was also added. The Olympic skeleton competition consists of four heats run over two days, with the gold medal going to the competitor with the fastest aggregate time.
Athletes to watch in Sochi
(Copyright images: Getty Images; IOC)
With Amy Williams retired and Jon Montgomery not having qualifiedfor the Canadian team, neither of the reigning champions will be defending their titles in Sochi. Vancouver 2010 silver medallist Martins Dukurs is the current dominant force in the men’s event, having won the past four World Cup titles, although the Latvian was beaten by Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov at the 2013 World Championships. Tomass Dukurs, the younger brother of Martins, could also challenge for a place on the podium, along with German duo Frank Rommel and Alexander Kröckel, and the USA’s in-form Matthew Antoine.
Germany’s Marion Thees was the women’s 2013 World Cup champion, although the 29-year-old has so far struggled to match that form in the 2013/14 World Cup season. Britain’s Turin 2006 silver medallist Shelley Rudman is the reigning world champion and has made a consistent start to the current World Cup season, which is being dominated by Rudman’s compatriot Lizzy Yarnold and the USA’s Noelle Pikus-Pace. Yarnold, the 2012 World Championship bronze medallist, and 2007 world champion Pikus-Pace have each won three of the first six races. Germany’s Olympic bronze medallist Anja Huber and Canada’s 2013 World Championship bronze medallist are also both likely to challenge for the podium.
The first-ever Olympic skeleton title was won in 1928 by the USA’s Jennison Heaton, who also won a silver medal in bobsleigh at the same Games. Heaton’s younger brother, John, finished second in the skeleton in 1928 and won silver again 20 years later, when the event was held for a second time, in 1948. John Heaton’s two silver medals make him the most successful athlete in the sport, with Switzerland’s Gregor Stähli the only other athlete to win multiple medals, having claimed bronze at both the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games.
In winning the men’s Olympic title in 2006, at the age of 39 years and 190 days, Canada’s Duff Gibson became the oldest individual Winter Olympic gold medallist. Gibson’s compatriot Jon Montgomery succeeded him as Olympic champion by winning skeleton gold on home soil in Vancouver four years ago, while Britain’s Amy Williams won her country’s first individual gold medal at the Winter Games since 1980 when she claimed the women’s title. While they do not have a strong tradition in winter sports, British athletes have medalled in the women’s skeleton at each of the three Games since the sport returned to the Olympic programme, with Alex Coomber winning bronze in 2002 and Shelley Rudman claiming silver in 2006.