Skeleton looks like a sport that was created via double-dog dare.
The male and female athletes will head down the track at the Beijing National Sliding Center at speeds of around 80 miles per hour. That actually makes it slower than luge, but there are two major differences between the sports. Lugers go on their back while the skeleton event is headfirst. Additionally, in luge, you push-start on an ungrooved track, whereas in skeleton the sliders run while their sled sits in a track groove to help them get started.
And like all the other sliding sports, there’s virtually zero room for error. Each competitor will head down the track four times across two days, and the winner will have the fastest-combined time for all heats. No bad runs get dropped, so if you have a major misstep or crash, you’re done.
The sport has roots in Switzerland of the 19th Century, and the courses were said to look like “skeletons.” It was a medal event in both the 1928 and 1948 Olympics, both held in Switzerland’s St. Moritz, but then was shelved until Salt Lake City in 2002 in the IOC’s unending quest to find as many cold-weather medals to award as possible during the smaller of their quadrennial two-week worldwide media rights extravaganzas.
Team GB’s Lizzy Yarnold has won two gold medals in skeleton — more than any other athlete — at Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018. She won’t be in Beijing, so we’ll have a new Olympic Champion after this event.