Olympic skeleton at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

Athletes hurtling head first down on an icy track on a sledge, reaching speeds over 130km/h - what's not to love? Find out more about all the details surrounding the skeleton competition at Beijing 2022 here!

By Will Imbo

Skeleton is one of the three sliding sports on the programme at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, alongside the luge and bobsleigh.

With only six medals up for grabs, skeleton has the joint-fewest events at the Winter Games - which means competition for a podium finish will be fierce.

Below, we take a look at some of the athletes who could take one of the medals on offer, the history of the sport, as well as covering the track these men and women will be flying down in greater detail.

Top Olympic skeleton riders at Beijing 2022

Six-time world champion and double Olympic silver medalist Martins Dukurs (LAT) has competed in the skeleton since 1998, making him the veteran of the men's field. The Latvian finished fourth at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and 16th in the 2021 World Championships, but don't count Dukurs out from contention in Beijing. After all, the man known as “Superman” by his competitors has the most World Cup titles in skeleton history.

Reigning Olympic champion Yun Sung-bin (KOR) finished 17th at the 2021 World Championships, while the event was won by Christopher Grotheer (GER). The German picked up his second consecutive world title after winning the event in 2020, and should be a favourite to challenge for the podium in Beijing.

The last three Olympic champions in men's skeleton have all represented the host nation, though China is yet to win a medal in the event, and only entered their first athlete in skeleton history at the Olympics at the 2018 PyeongChang Games (Wenqiang Geng, who finished 13th). However, both Geng and teammate Yin Zheng have an advantage over their competitors, as they have more time to practice on and master the track that will be used for the skeleton competition at Beijing.

The last three gold medalists in women's skeleton at the Olympics have all represented Great Britain, so while two-time defending champion Elizabeth Yarnold (the most successful Olympic skeleton athlete of all time) has retired from competition, it's worth keeping an eye on Yarnold's compatriot and 2018 bronze medalist Laura Deas, who could continue Team GB's medal streak in Beijing.

2018 silver medalist Jacqueline Loelling (GER) finished second at the 2021 World Championships, with fellow German Tina Hermann picking up her fourth championship, and third consecutive skeleton title. Both should challenge for the gold medal in Beijing.

China's top prospects include youngster Zhao Dan, who finished seventh at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, and Lin Huiyang, who posted the best-ever result for China's women's team at the World Championships when she finished 13th.

Olympic skeleton schedule at Beijing 2022

The competition will take place from 10 February - 12 February 2022.

Olympic skeleton venue at Beijing 2022

All sliding events will take place at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, located in the Xiaohaituo mountain area in Yanqing, located 74km north-west of the Chinese capital.

The track that will be used for the sliding events is the first of its kind in the world to include a 360-degree turn. The competition length of the track is 1615 meters, with a maximum gradient of 18% and 16 curves.

The venue has a seating capacity of 2,000 and a standing capacity of 8,000 for spectators.

Olympic skeleton competition format at Beijing 2022

The skeleton competition at the Winter Olympics features two events:

Men's Singles

Women's Singles

A total of 50 quota spots are available for athletes to qualify to compete in skeleton at the Games.

In each event, athletes compete on the same track, with each rider getting four runs over the course of two days. Those four rides are timed down to the hundredth of a second and the times added together. The athlete with the fastest total time is the winner.

Olympic skeleton history

The sport of skeleton has its roots in that most popular of winter pastimes: sleighing. In the mid-19th century, British and American holidaymakers built the first toboggan run in Davos in 1882, and thus the sport of sleighing began.

Two years later, in 1884, the famed Cresta Run - a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track - was built in St. Moritz, Switzerland (the course has hosted the annual Grand National championships since 1885). The 1887 Grand National saw the first competitors to careen down the run headfirst.

In 1892, a new sledge made entirely of steel was introduced, and some claim that its bony appearance gave the sledge and the sport the name 'skeleton'.

Men's skeleton was first introduced on the Olympic programme in the 1928 Games in St. Moritz, and then again at the 1948 Winter Olympics (also in St. Moritz). But due to the sport only being available at the Cresta Run at the time, it fell into obscurity as the luge and bobsleigh grew in popularity. However, in 2002, the skeleton was reintroduced as a men's and women's event at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, and has remained a part of the Olympic programme ever since.

While Great Britain has the most medals (nine) in skeleton competition at the Olympics, the top spot belongs to the United States (eight medals) by virtue of having four silvers to Great Britain's one (both nations have three golds, while Britain has five bronze medals, and the United States one).

Great Britain is the only nation to have won a medal every time skeleton has featured at the Olympic Games, and has won at least one medal in each of the five contests of women's skeleton since its introduction.

Elizabeth Yarnold is the most successful athlete in Olympic skeleton history, with two gold medals.