Skeleton is one of the most terrifying sports in existence. You lie down, head first, on a small sled and head down an intricate ice track at speed of over 130 km/h. Not only you have to control yourself at that sort of pace, but you also have to think about winning the race. The winner is usually in front of his opponents just by fractions of a second. That is why aerodynamics is very important.
Shaving every bit of your time is very important in skeleton. That’s why German national skeleton coach Jens Müller and two world class athletes, Jacqueline Lölling and Tina Hermann, visited BMW Group’s aerodynamic test centre. The goal was to conduct testing in the wind tunnel. You may think this is a little too serious for a sport, but upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang are calling for the last minute improvements in equipment and riding position.
The coach said that during the season and after it they gather ideas, which have to be tested in the wind tunnel, therefore, these visits are pretty much regular. Interestingly, what exactly is being tested is a secret as the team doesn’t want to help athletes from the other countries – when you’re speaking about hundredths of a second, every tiny bit of effort counts. However, they did say that some new materials have to be approved and the position of the rider is very important. Especially for the Tina Hermann, 2015/16 overall world cup winner, because she is lighter and therefore accelerates at a slower pace. Tests in the wind tunnel are helping Hermann to optimize her performance and to compensate what she lacks in weight.
Tina Hermann said: “I am always excited to see the results of a test like this in the BMW wind tunnel. It’s only then that you can see whether it was worth changing certain settings or details. It’s all about fine tuning and getting that last hundredth of a second”. Her teammates pointed out that BMW is crucial for the entire sport in Germany. In fact, skeleton athletes visit the site so often that everyone knows each other already, ask about the changes and what success did they bring.
When you are chasing hundredths of a second, everything is important. The material of the helmet, the weight, clothing, position on the sled – everything. While the best coaches in the world are able to quickly gauge by eye what is off, technology is pushing the sport to new levels. You should totally watch skeleton on the upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang this February – it is truly terrifying.