Sliding head-first down a track, really, really fast … the process

The idea of the process section of this blog is to talk to people who are doing things – making music videos, editing books, dancing, designing – which will hopefully provide you with inspiration for whatever it is that you’re doing (or want to do). Emma Lincoln-Smith does the skeleton – a sport where you slide head-first down a track at speeds of up to 143 km/hour and most runs are over in under a minute. What sort of work goes into something like that? Read below and find out …

(If you missed Emma’s intro, go back a few posts, or clickhere …)

What’s your process? Can you talk us through your training regime?

My training regime is very demanding. I base my training around a four-year cycle to make sure I peak at the Olympics and during that final world cup season. For the last two years leading into the games, my training has to be my absolute priority. I train 6 days a week, 2-3 times a day. I get up at 5am and head to the NSW Institute of sport gym at Homebush (where I also study) and do a 2 to 2.5 hour gym session, consisting of weights and cardio along with a lot of core work. After gym I try to get physio or acupuncture for my calf muscles. In the afternoon I either do a push session with my sled up a hill to work on lengthening my stride, or at track to work on the explosivness of the first few steps. I alternate my afternoon session between push sessions or track sessions where I work on speed. During the day if possible I also try to do a pool recovery session as it is a good way to loosen up my muscles. I usually do a stairs sprint session on Saturday mornings with my squad, then go to the gym and do cardio and a lot of core work and specific skeleton work such as strengthening my neck muscles.

I feel tired. Okay, you’ve got a competitive background in surf lifesaving, and track and field, then in 2004 the AIS selects you as part of a squad to train for the skeleton. You’ve never done it before. How were you trained to simulate the experience before your very first run? What was that first run like?

Before the first run they gave us POV (point of view) tapes where we could see the track as if we were going down it, allowing us to study the curves. Every track is different and it is important that you know the track off by heart before you go down otherwise things get out of control. We started on the Calgary track, so I watched POV for it. The first run was from half way, and I thought it was rather dull and was a bit disappointed as I thought it would be faster. Then the next day we went from the very top and the speed was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I was not prepared for the curves to come so quickly at me and it was a shock. I wanted to slow down but realized we have no brakes and just knew it was going to get faster and faster. It took a week or so, but once I got over a few nasty crashes, I was super-determined to get this thing. I was hooked. Now I chase the speed and can’t get enough.

Five years after that initial selection, you finish 5th at the World Skeleton Championships at Lake Placid (Feb, 2009). Then in February 2010 you compete at the Winter Olympics. You’ve come such a long way for someone who has only recently taken up the sport. What are the three main things you feel have propelled you there?

Firstly, persistence. I missed out [on Olympic team selection] in 2006 and was determined to never experience that feeling of missing out on something I wanted so badly again. The second is that it has been my dream since I can remember to get to an Olympic games. Since I was a child I have wanted to perform on the world stage and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would. The third thing would be my love of the sport. I love skeleton more than anything else in the world and to get to do something that you love that much and reap the benefits of getting to go to the Olympics, travel around the world and meet some amazing people is priceless. When you love something as much as I love skeleton, you just do what you have to do to get to do that thing, and I have done everything that has needed to be done to get to where I am.

Thank you, Emma! Bring on Russia, 2014.