Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My first crash

"Ya dead man?"
                           "Yaaa man..." - Cool Runnings

I had never really considered the extent and force of a bobsled crash. It sounds silly I know. But as brakeman, 99% of a bobsled run is out of my control. I am hanging on to two bars of metal on the inside of the sled, with my head tucked down.

Aside from memorizing the course and feeling the turns with substantial g-force (equivalent to a fighter pilot).. I really have no idea what's going on.

The blue bit is my seat, I grab onto the black bars on the side, my arms are my seatbelt

I have always had the attitude that what is out of my control, is not worth worrying about. And so despite knowing there are significant risks involved with the sport... I don't think I'd fully appreciated that fact until now.

After having a lot of fun on my second day in the back of the sled, I was pumped up for another good day today. Jason (Aussie Pilot) was also pretty keen to get up to the top.

I found on our first run I was feeling every corner, and without seeing where we were I could pick every corner, and was really developing a sense for the 2002 Winter Olympic track.

On our second, and final run for today.. nothing seemed right from the start. There was nothing major, but right from the top, little things were just not going right... regardless, I tucked in braced and prepared to feel the track again.

We came through turn one, turn two, and three... and I was feeling everything. I was beginning to believe that perhaps I was some sort of Jedi after all.

Then things went wrong. We hit something in turn four... and I immediately became disoriented.

There was a moment where I thought I'd lost our place on the track and that maybe we were in one of the bigger turns of the track.. a loud bang quickly cut that thought from my head.

We were on our side.. and all of a sudden i realized we had crashed. I was on my right side, slamming against the ice. It's hard to remember anything quite so scary, and because we were so high on the track, this crash would last a while.

We slipped, slid, and rotated around the ice track. 

It's funny... in those moments, you think you're life would flash before you or something cliche. Instead, my mind was clear... I knew I had to hang on hard, and ride the bumps. There was the occasional sense of lightness, then a thud as we slammed back into the wall... the back of my head was copping a pounding, but my helmet was doing its job well. Then we hit the straights.

We were traveling at high speed, with my head and shoulder literally sliding along the ice. As it was all happening I remembered some advice from a coach... 'take the pressure off your shoulder with your head so that you don't get burnt.'

It was hard work alternating, and also counter intuitive to physically push your head into the ice as you hurtle down the track.

At one point i remember thinking that I didn't mind it so much, but then we slammed into another wall and very quickly I wanted it over. The crash lasted all of a minute, but it felt like an hour...

As we finally came to a halt at the low point of the track (between the 14th and 15th corner) I was actually thrilled. It was a strange feeling, knowing I'd emerged unscathed from such a crash.

The medics rushed toward the sled... "Are you guys alright? Is everyone alright?"

Me and Jason were both fine.

"That was a hell of a run you guys just had... you were going 62 miles an hour on your head..."

"That's one hell of a Facebook status" I chirped back.

There isn't a moment in life where there isn't time for a laugh, even when you've come perilously close to something going very wrong.

Jason felt really bad and asked me if I was ok about 50 times.

This was my response...

With bobsled being the 'macho' sport it is... we had to get straight to work helping the medics get he sled off the track, get all grease-monkey changing the runners (the steel the sled runs on) and we had to patch up some of the damage done to Jason's sled.

Plenty of tape on the sled to patch up the damage

As we rode back to the apartment, I realised that I finally understood what it means to be a bobsledder, crashes are a part of the game. The only thing to do is saddle up and get back out there tomorrow.

I asked if I received any concessions for the crash from Jason.. he explained that a beer is the usual currency, I gladly accepted.

A very satisfying beer...

People in Australia don't take this sport seriously, and it's fair to say that I didn't take it seriously enough before today. The risks, and the rewards, are so much more than I ever considered. Its the real deal, there's nothing amateur about it over here. Like every professional sport, the athletes strut, they psyche themselves up, they do heavy lifting in front of others to show off... here, there is no room to take it lightly. And all that being the case, it makes it that much more special to know I'm over here representing my country.

The crash was not fun, but I'm not hurt aside from a slight headache, and I learned, and that's all you can hope for. Tomorrow is a new day.

I'll leave you with a picture the bobsled track, with the first snowfall of the trip coming down hard.

Keep feeling the rhythm.

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