2014 Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics: Skeleton

Face first down an icy track


Related Links

Did You Know?

American Jennison Heaton won the first skeleton gold medal in 1928, beating his brother John, who took the silver, by one second. A 39-year-old John Heaton would win the silver again in 1948 finishing second to Italy's Nino Bibbia.

Skeleton made its Olympic return in 2002 after a 54-year absence. Like luge, the sport involves racing a sled down an icy track. Unlike luge, skeleton sleds are ridden face first.

The sport was named when someone commented that a new metal sled, first used in 1892, resembled a skeleton. Its first organized competition took place in the late 1800s in the Swiss village of St. Moritz. Riders raced down the frozen road from St. Moritz to Celerina on simple sleds, and the winner received a bottle of champagne.

It was at the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Games that skeleton made its Olympic debut. But the sport would not reappear until the 1948 Winter Games, which were also held in St. Moritz. Then—just as suddenly—skeleton went back in the closet again until its 2002 reemergence.

Previously a male-only endeavor at the Olympics, women's skeleton appeared for the first time in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

The format for Olympic skeleton involves two timed runs. The top men and women from the first run compete in the second run, which is held later that same day. The combined time of the two runs determines the final standings.

The sled can only be ridden in the prone position (face first, on the stomach), and although the rider can leave the sled to push or move it, he or she must cross the finish line on the sled in order for the run to be considered valid.

Warming the sled's metal runners or using any substance that improves sliding is prohibited. At the start of the race, the temperature of the runners must be within 4°C of the reference runner, which is exposed to the open air for one hour before the start of the competition.

The rules of skeleton have changed since the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino. Each athlete will take four runs, instead of the two runs each athlete was allowed previously.

Most of the athletes who competed in skeleton in 2002, 2006, and 2010 have retired, and Coach Tuffy Latour is bringing a young team to Sochi. Among the most promising Americans are vets Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender, who finished fourth and 11th in Vancouver, respectively. On the men's side, John Daly, Kyle Tress, and Matt Antoine are hoping to reach the medal stand. Daly competed at Vancouver, and Tress and Antoine are making their Olympic debuts in Sochi.

by Beth Rowen

More about the 2014 Winter Olympics

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
A duke is the highest of the five degrees of English nobility.


Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks