The kit: what's needed and why
Skeleton doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but because the sport is all about being the fastest, a lot of time and money is spent designing and developing kit that can help give athletes a competitive edge.
Finding the right manufacturing techniques is vital because even the slightest increase in aerodynamics can be the difference between finishing first and second.
Here’s what every athlete needs to compete:
The race suit
A skeleton race suit is made from lycra because it’s light and tight-fitting, which keeps the rider aerodynamic and comfortable.
The suit is tailored to fit the athlete, so there’s never any loose material flapping in the wind and slowing the athlete down. It comes with a hood, although, if the athlete prefers, this can be cut off.
Skeleton athletes wear specialist racing helmets. The design of the helmet is very important because it must be strong enough to protect the athlete’s skull during impact, but also light enough so that it doesn’t feel heavy when they hit corners at 5G speeds. The helmet covers the face and the chin because the athlete’s head will often touch the ice.
Each helmet has a Perspex visor. These come in a variety of colours to suit the lighting conditions of the track. Each athlete will have two or three different visors so that they can select the best one for the conditions on the track (when it’s really bright they might even wear two visors). They’ll also carry a spare visor just in case one of them cracks.
Athletes are required to wear brush spikes in all races. These are so called because they look like a brush or broom, with more than 300 needle-like spikes on the soles. These spikes grip the ice at the start of the race so that the athlete can push their sled with maximum power.
The spikes are better for skeleton than the spikes on an athletics shoe (which has fewer, larger spikes) because they do less damage to the ice.