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WORLD SPORT

Skeleton

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Skeleton was held at the Olympics in 1928, 1948 and 2002.

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Skeleton
Winter Olympics
Torino

TORINO, Italy (CNN) -- Skeleton originated in the Swiss resort town of St Moritz in the late 19th Century.

In the first competition, held along a road from St Moritz to Celerina in 1884, the first prize was a bottle champagne. Three years later the prone position was adopted -- it is still favored today.

How it is done

Olympic events are held over two runs contested on the same day. The entrant with the lowest aggregate time, clocked in hundredths of seconds, wins. If competitors finish with the same aggregate they are awarded a tie.

An athlete must run along the ice for the first 50 meters at the top of the course to gain momentum, before leaping onto the skeleton. The athlete steers by shifting weight from side to side and stops at the end of the course by dragging his or her feet along the ice.

The skeleton is fitted with side bumpers that act as shock absorbers and protect the athlete from the wall of the course.

What makes it hard

Mounting the board at the start of the run can be a very difficult skill to learn. Athletes run flat out for 50 meters and must then leap forward, landing on the skeleton chest first and then lowering their bodies in one smooth motion. Any momentum lost in the action could be crucial.

Unlike the bobsleigh, there is no steering mechanism on a skeleton. They can only be manoeuvred by shifts in weight as tight curves or bends approach while the skeleton plunges towards the finish line at speeds between 120 kilometres per hour and 135 kilometres per hour.

The course in Torino is 1,435 meters long with a drop of 114 meters and 19 bends -- 11 left-hand and eight right-hand.

Decoding the Jargon

You may hear some unfamiliar terms in the expert commentary of the skeleton at the Games. Here is what some of them mean:

Boarding: The action of leaping onto the skeleton at the start of the run, ensuring a smooth landing while maintaining momentum and control.

Labyrinth: A stretch of track made up entirely of a series of left and right curves with no straight section in between. At the Torino course, this is from turn six.

Omega: A curve shaped like the letter Omega in the Greek alphabet.

Which means you can sound like an expert by saying: "That's the best labyrinth performance since Jennifer Connelly'sexternal link."

Did you know?

The sport's somewhat sanguinary name has little to do with its seemingly death-defying nature. It was coined when a new sled made mostly of metal was introduced in 1892 -- its shape and appearance was said to resemble a skeleton.

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