The bobsled track has the force of a rocket ship and the thrill of a roller coaster. And shooting down a bobsled track feels about as good as being shot out of a cannon.
“You got to be a bit of a speed junkie,” bobsledder Ethan Albrecht-Carrie said.
You also have to be is ready for the ride, luger Duncan Kennedy said.
“It's the G forces with the curves, with the banked corners, with the sliding sports. It's really something else and it's a very unique feeling,” Kennedy said.
Bobsledding, skeleton and luge, all sports Olympians will compete in during the Vancouver games, are sliding sports that are similar enough to share the same track, one like you find at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, New York.
The sports also share similar scoring systems. There's no judging involved. It's just the slider against the clock. But that's where the parallels end because the athletes, the sleighs and even the way they race are different.
Skeleton racers lead the pack, literally. They take the track head-first.
“The skeleton sled is heavier, has a lower center of gravity, (and is) a little wider. They're on their stomach,” says Kennedy.
Racers hit 19 turns, use body control to steer the sleigh, reach speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour and ride solo.
“You have to push yourself to be fast powerful explosive as possible,” says Albrecht-Carrie.
Luging looks easier than it is, luger Ashley Walden said.
“You have to steer to get down or you will crash, but if you're constantly steering the sled, you're going to slow down.”
Lugers take 17 turns, burning the invisible odometer at close to 80 miles per hour.
Bobsledders ride in two- or four-man crews, take on 20 turns and can speed up to 85 miles per hour. In two man crews, the drive sits in front, keeping an eye on the track and a hand on the brake. The rider also helps break.
“You're pulling 12 G's on some of these things. Astronauts on take off are pulling five, six or seven G’s, it’s not endured. Split second 10, 12 G's? It doesn't get more intense then that,” explains Albrecht-Carrie.
The pressure takes a toll of your body. Still, these athletes train as often as possible. Tucker West, 14, of Ridgefield, Connecticut takes a ride down the track several times a week.
“it's all different all the time the adrenaline the speed,” he said.
In Vancouver, the racers with the fastest combined time after four runs wins the gold. For future Olympic hopefuls like West, training is about growing into a pro without losing his inner child.
“Every single run is fun,” he said.