EN: From Sigulda With Love


Everybody see what this year is. The fact that there are any trainings and competition in any sliding sport could be considered as a good luck or sometimes even a miracle. Back in July 2020, when I was driving from my hometown Bielsko – Biała to Winterberg to buy my first sled I was considering if (and when) it would be even possible to use then for sliding.

Beside that doubts at the end of October I finally collected all equipment required for sliding in head first position 🙂 The remaining question was where to come for the first training camp 🙂 In the late autumn, after a lot of 'formal turbulence' and few corona tests I was sitting in FIAT Talento owned by our trainer, and heading towards Sigulda.

The polish team departed from Gdańsk so I had to drive there from Bielsko – Biała in my old Nissan Almera. Almost during all that 580 kilometers I had only one doubt in my head

What the f**k I’m doing

This is quite similar feeling than what I have with paragliding. I sit in front of my computer digging through weather forecast and weather stations. Maybe the wind be too strong or too weak? Maybe it will blow from wrong direction for this takeoff? Maybe I will stay at home this time. Oh, I have a meeting tomorow. What will happen If I’d crash? This person won’t even know where I’m. But after 10 years from my first launch on paraglider I say

Yes, I go paragliding

This time I was going for training camp with the sled I have never slide on yet, on the track which is known as the hardest and most demanding track on the world. Everything that after the Skeleton School in St Moritz and 6 runs made.

I always have a great respect to Sigulda track. The first time I saw this track in person was in December 2018 when I came there for the thing called 'Showelrace' (original name is with 'w')

After I arrived to Sigulda for the first time and came to see how the track looks like my legs started do shake. I was looking at this track, I was looking at the top luge/skele/bob start at the 5th and 6th floor and thinking „WTF” for the first time in my starting sliding career 🙂 You can listen and watch many videos about sliding, but until You’ll see this in person and experience Yourself this will be only plain talking.

My crash (hehe) course with sliding looks as follows

  • February 2018 – Polish Youth Olympics in Krynica Zdrój – First six runs on artificial track luge sled. The track was about 300 meters long old wooden track w/o artificial refrigeration. At this moment it is severely damaged and not used anymore. Probably will be demolished completely.
  • April 2018 – Roller (aka Summer) luge Training camp in Smržovka in Czech Republic on Artificial Track
  • June 2018 – Roller (aka Summer) luge training camp in Karpacz in Poland. I was one of few last person having training on that track. After our camp its technical shape became so bad (the last curve started to disintegrate) that it was closed. It remains in this state, waiting for funds required for it’s reconstruction or at least severe refurbishment.
  • November 2018 – It’s complicated… Very complicated.
  • December 2018 – First participation in Showelrace
  • December 2019 – As for now the last participation in Showelrace
  • February 2020 – Skeleton school in St Moritz. First six runs on skeleton (three from Montis Bolt and three from the top)
  • March 2020 – Polish AT Luge Championships in Sigulda. About a dozen runs from 13th and 11th curve on Luge sled. The return from Latvia at March 15th is a material for more than one adventure book 🙂

Thankfully we arrived to Sigulda without any problems and after next corona test made in Riga we were allowed to enter the track. I felt hard to explain stress from the first day of the camp. I know that I will need few days and few runs to accommodate to this and switch my brain to different way of working 🙂

I knew from the beginning that there is no way to go to the top during this camp. This is not Igls or St Moritz. Even ladies start were hardly possible

When I need to talk about dynamics and stability of the skeleton during the run I sometimes compare it to keel sailing yacht. In such case two factors makes the sled more stable than the luge one: The shape stability and the weight stability. Skeleton is much lower and much heavier. A center of mass is located only few centimeters above the ice, so the big mass automatically turns the sled to runners down position in most cases. The similar principle works in keel yachts which have to resist harsh off shore sea conditions. Very heavy keel (up to few tons) sticks below the hull to lower the center of gravity.

Bavaria 37 Cruiser off-shore ballast sailing yacht. Capable to sail on open sea / open ocean up to 8 Beauforts (about 20m/s of windspeed)

As I turned out such comparison has a little sense and a skeleton sled could also capsize easily.

So let’s fast forward to most '#JerryOfTheDay' or '#JustSendIt' moment. The second day, Sunday, December 6th. I still had a Junior Start in the schedule. The day before I had a companion in form of UK skeleton team. Theirs trainer helped me a lot during the start. At December 6th the UK group increased to 6 sliders.

First run in this training season (Third in Sigulda and seventh in total): I’m sliding somehow, I try to look forwards but in the same moment keep head and shoulders as low as possible, to retain the balance right and push the front of the sled. Long straight before the 15th curve. I know that I must enter onto the curve early which means that I need to be towards the left side of the track. Unfortunately just before the curve I hit the left band what bounces me slightly towards the right side. Very late entry end even more delayed exit and…. Badum tsch… After the 15th I’m sliding on my back with my own sled on me.

At this point I’ve started to consider: 'Maybe Laser Radial'? The capsize on such small sailboat is so damn easier and less painful. You fall into the water, if You have proper wetsuit You won’t even feel cold. Righting is very easy. You must grab the centerboard and pull the hull towards Yourself. Then when the mast starts to lift from the water You grab the hull and few moments later she (1) is back as it should be. This is an advantage when sailing the sailboat only 4 meters long.

(1) – The sailing tradition always personify the boat as a woman. This is why sailors talks for example: „she saw better days” not „it saw better days” when talking about the boat in not great shape.

In the meantime one of UK coaches helps me to get our from the track. He confirmed that I delayed exit from the curve a lot which was a direct cause of this capsize.

I do a next run with a pause (my second one will be the third in this session). When I was waiting for my turn I was constantly repeating in my head a sequence of steering I need to apply on each curve. I start from the Junior and until 'this famous' 15th everything is fine. Ok, early entry! I made it! Little steering using left shoulder, then release and more left shoulder at the exit. And…

I feel big bang. A stars flying in front of my eyes and strange sounds like tidying up broken glass.

I don’t know what exactly happened. I suppose that I hit the right band very hard after the exit. I crossed the finish line but not without a side effects. The reason of this accidents is unclear. I had only about 80 km/h. After the short chat with our intelligence officer from Winterberg Hans Kloss code name J-27 we came into conclusion that maybe I hit my own sled.

Hans Kloss himself
DISCLAIMER: The photo above is a still frame from polish war TV series "Stawka większa niż życie" (ang. Bid more than life") made in 1967. This take shows the main character, Hans Kloss - double, soviet-nazi spy who were working mostly on gathering classified information from Abwehra, IIIrd Reich military intelligence. Of course because the script has been written during communism the story is very polarized towards a glorification of Soviet militarism, especially in the way which emphasize the key role of Red Army in beating IIIrd Reich and ending Second World War. 

the photo is included here as a some sort of (stupid) 'joke' which bases on my personal relations with Polish sliders living and competing under German flag. IT DOES NOT means or suggest that any polish or german slider has anything to do with Nazism!!!!!!

When I’m writing that post ( /* when I was writing it’s original, polish version */ ), at the morning next day I still feel strong headache. I don’t now If I really feel this pain or I’m just so stressed that my body react to what I expect to be and this is a form of hypochondria.

To sum everything up I can admin that I have severe experience with hurting myself during various sliding sports. Lets list in chronological order:

Summer Luge in Smržovka – Right arm bruised to blood (see below) as a result of hitting the right band made of wood. Sleds we were using was old Germina made in East Germany w/o any cover or something like that. They could be seen in that article ( http://luge.pl/index.php/sanki/sankorolki-jazda-w-lecie/ )

Summer luge in Karpacz – knees bruised to blood after few falls from the last curve. Crashes caused by too light steering and going to high on the curve.

Skeleton school in St Moritz – No crash occured but almost all body was beaten severly. Arms, legs, chin (because of too small helmet and big pressure on curves)

It’s hard to say if Sigulda conquered me or not. The training camp is not over and the difference between this track and St Moritz is so damn big that I don’t know where to start.

After all things I have experienced in Sigulda so far I started to consider few matters. Maybe I reached the border of my capabilities? I know from the beginning that sliding is reserved only for the hardest bastards. Maybe I’m no the hard bastard and in deed paragliding or any aviation sport isn’t a big deal at all?

All in all great respect to all fellow sliders going from the top. If I have such problems from the Junior, how hard the top must be.

Generally in skeleton there are three factors which leads to good finish time: the push at launch, driving skill and equipment. I would add the fourth one: courage and hard temper. Even the best sprinter won’t became good slider if they won’t be able to deal with himself / herself before the start.

I somehow deal with myself in paragliding for all these years. Few times I had a plans to end with flying but I have always returned.

It is clear that I won’t make great career in skeleton and I won’t go for the Olympics. I have no money and no time for such full-time commitment. So why I’m doing this? I have always liked a big challenges and such adrenaline sports. Maybe I’m not made for skeleton. Maybe I’ll crash, an ambulance will bring me to the hospital and doctor will say „Stop this before You will kill yourself”

I very rarely regret that I did something which after some time turned out to be a nonsense. So far I have spent about 10k PLN (about $ 2500). Estimated cost to the end of 2020 is about 15k PLN (about $ 4000). This is money which is fully acceptable for me, but as You might now there are things You can’t buy.

Sliding sports gave me a lot of things. Beside loosing more than 15 kilograms they taught me few things as a person. I am able to see and experience how does the professional sport looks like. They teach me constantly how to deal with stress. They give me a lot of emotions, adrenaline and satisfaction. This makes me totally different person that I was before this December 2017 when I saw a Youtube clip about the skeleton.

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