Sliders savouring chance to compete on St. Moritz's famous Olympia Bob run
The St. Moritz Olympia Bob Run is a venue steeped in history and sporting significance.
Not only is it the oldest bobsleigh track in the world, having hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948, but its surface, which snakes through the wooded Engadin Valley, is made entirely of natural ice.
For the athletes competing in bobsleigh, skeleton and luge at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, the sensation of racing through its corners at speeds of up to 130km per hour has proved both exhilarating and engaging.
“This is the nicest track I’ve ever been on,” skeleton rider Teddy Fitzsimons (USA) said. “There’s not many tracks that I know of that have natural ice so it feels really nice when you’re sliding.
“It’s never really scary. It’s very quiet and you feel really at peace. At Lake Placid [in the United States] when I’m riding, it’s very loud and it feels like you’re going through a machine with lots of clanging sounds.”
The scenic landscape in the surrounding valley has also drawn an enthusiastic response from the competitors.
“Not all competitions are like this,” 17-year-old skeleton racer Lukas David Nydegger (GER) said. “This place has the best weather. It’s beautiful. The landscape is beautiful and some other tracks have a similar landscape but they’re not as pretty.
“It’s a natural track. The ice is a lot different to artificial ice. It looks different, it feels different sliding on it, and the track is in the middle of a forest. It’s crazy.
“Walking down here you feel almost like you’re in the wilderness.”
Despite the beautiful vistas in the athletes’ sightline, the St. Moritz Olympia Bob Run is not a course to be taken lightly. The surface makes for an incredibly quick ride, which can be rewarding and unnerving.
“It’s really skiddy,” skeleton racer Ryan Kuehn (CAN) said. “It’s really important to be relaxed here with all these long straightaways because any moment of muscle tension might set you off into a skid and ruin your run.
“I started a new routine just for the Olympics. I put my headphones in, zone myself out and bounce around to stay relaxed.
“I just keep moving. I don’t think about throwing myself down the hill.”