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Updated: July 18, 2013 4:48 PM | By

Winter Olympics 2014: Skeleton

A guide to the sport of skeleton at Sochi 2014

Skeleton returned to the Olympic program in 2002 (© Copyright [c] Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.)

Skeleton returned to the Olympic program in 2002


The origins of skeleton can be traced back to the building of the famous Cresta Run in St Moritz in 1884. Early competitors would slide down the course on wooden sleds, and a head-first style soon became the accepted method of going fastest.

Classed in its early days as simple tobogganing, skeleton did not get its name until the start of the 20th century, when the first steel sleds were introduced and their bony appearance led to the sport's re-branding.

Skeleton made its Olympic debut in 1928 with a men's event which was won by American Jennison Heaton ahead of his brother John. It re-appeared 20 years later in 1948, when John Heaton again took the silver medal behind Nino Bibbia of Italy.

It was no coincidence that the skeleton's early Olympic appearances were both at St Moritz. The sport was little-known elsewhere, and soon fell into decline. It was rejuvenated when it was recognised by the International Bobsleigh Federation in the mid-1990s, and returned to the Olympic program in 2002 with both men's and women's events.


Men's and women's skeleton events are being contested at the 2014 Winter Olympics. They each consist of four runs over two days, with places decided by the lowest cumulative times over the four runs.

Men's and women's races have taken place since the sport was re-introduced to the Games in 2002. Women had been banned from skeleton in the 1920s when it was feared the vibrations from the new steel sleds could cause breast cancer.


World-class skeleton sleds are extraordinary feats of engineering, and it is not uncommon to find leading sled designers with backgrounds in motor sports such as Formula One.

Each sled consists of a fibreglass pod mounted on a steel frame and a pair of highly-polished steel runners, mounted in such a way that the steering can be controlled by the slightest movement. Heating the runners is illegal.

The combined weight of the sled and the athlete must be below a maximum stipulated weight. Athletes wear helmets with chin guards, spiked shoes and a skin-tight race suit to help with the aerodynamics.


John Heaton and Gregor Stahli are the only two men to win more than one Olympic skeleton medal. Heaton's was a particularly remarkable feat in that his two silver medals came 20 years apart, in 1928 and 1948. Stahli won bronze medals in 2002 and 2006.

Latvia's Martins Dukurs is the star name in the men's event having won 15 of the last 17 World Cup places stretching back over two seasons.

Great Britain have won medals in each of the last three women's events, culminating in Amy Williams' gold medal in 2010.


The skeleton at the 2014 Winter Olympics takes place at the Sliding Center Sanki.