Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My first four-man run

"The difference between a two-man and a four man is like the difference between a toy car and a bus" - Jason Oliveri

The Park City Olympic bobsled run all lit up from the bottom

The four-man bobsled is the blue-ribbon event of Winter sport. It's high risk, high speed, and incredible g-forces. This was the event I was most excited for, and our first training run was looming.

The morning had started decently enough, I braked in a to-man sled for Jason on the first run of the morning, but there was a major delay on the track after that.

Both Australian two-man sleds were unlucky enough to run straight over an unfortunately large patch of concrete on the track, sending up sparks.

There was a two hour delay on the track as we waited for repairs. This was time enough to head to the local Starbucks, which was becoming the site of many team meetings. It had wi-fi and caffeine, all we needed, and the convenience of just one location.

When we returned, it was time for the four man... and we lined up our four man sled, 'Bruce'.

The Aussie 4-man sled

"Bobsled start through the run out, bobsled start through the run out" called the announcer.. "Spence to the line".

Our pilot, Heath, walked over and we put our hands in together... "Lets just have fun out there OK guys? Aussie on three... one, two, three... AUSSIE"

All four of us got in position.. As brakeman, the start was on me...

"On my call guys.... Ready and GO!"

We gave it a push and commenced loading all four in the sled.

Ryan, on just his third bobsled run was in second after Heath, Jason third.

Ryan and Jason are meant to hover while I jump in last and get my legs underneath, call 'Down' and then get the push-bars in. It's a very tricky move.

A two man sled is small enough, you're certainly cosy in those. The four man sled, is all of 50 centimeters longer, and you're cramming two more in there. The consequences of a bad position in the sled can be crucial, even if there isn't a crash.

There is considerably more pressure, and if someone is sitting on someones foot, leg or hands, it can result in some very painful bruising, and even broken bones.

With all this running through my head as we jogged down the ice track, I'll admit I got a little nervous.

We loaded fine in the end and I braced hard...

The run was so much heavier than anything in two-man, I was getting rattled like a rag-doll, the slightest movement on each corner smacked my helmet against the side...

As we approached the most technical part of the track, we got bumped hard... My shoulder dug straight into a metal corner... we rounded 14 and 15, and I jammed on the brakes.

"Let's do that again!" I yelled.

And so we did, smoother and faster...

With the two-man sleds damaged from the concrete, it was a long night, with a gym session, and plenty of sanding and aligning to do back in the garage.

Garage work to the tune of country music in the heart of Utah

Today, was our final training day, and it was a busy one for me. Three two man runs, and one four-man run.

Me and Jason took the first one easy, and gave the second one a decent nudge. I took a cheeky peek at the timer as we went into corner one, 5.31, equal with what I pushed with Jake (the American) on my first night.

We did another four-man run, which had a great load with all four of us. It was a nice clean run too, but I'll admit I was getting tired after three pushes.

Me and Heath were then set to link for the first time. He's Australia's number one pilot, and we were eager to see what start time we could get ahead of tomorrows first races.

The inspiring quote from the brakeman's position

Our initial hit was terrible, poorly timed, and I was technically quite bad in terms of positioning. But, once we got it moving, we really took off. I was sprinting own ice pushing the sled hard... 5.23. It was quick for a training run. Heath drove it well.

At the bottom, the Panama team (who have one of the worlds fastest 200m runners, he's beaten Usain Bolt I'm told) were impressed with the start. Them and the Koreans are the coolest teams here for sure.

The Panamanians (is that right?) spend quite a lot of the time dancing... while the Koreans make up for their lack of English with plentiful smiles, fist-pumps and the occasional shadow box.

In Korea, Heath must be a big celebrity, they love him here. After loading all the sleds and getting them back to the mansion...

A big and tiring part of any day, loading and unloading sleds

Lucas and Gareth arrived in the afternoon.. and on our journey to the outlet stores purchased Oakley pants that would become our team uniform. It's definitely in the realm of the Jamaican vibe, and you'll see some pictures soon.

The two new boys, both ludicrously quick, have given a new feel to the group, we're a full squad now... and they were given no relief after their 30-hour journey.

Lucas getting a feel for the sled

Gareth doing some polishing

Tomorrow is our first official race day... I'm psyched. The chance to represent my country has arrived. I can't wait to feel what a race is like, the pressure, the nerves, and the speed.

Heath will pilot Australia 1, and I'll be his brakeman. Jason will pilot Australia 2, with Lucas pushing from the back...

Wish us all luck as we Bobsled for Australia.

Keep feeling the rhythm.

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