Riding in bobsled is rough and tough sledding

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 19, 2014 at 5:18 am •  Published: February 19, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Lolo Jones prayed between screams. Aja Evans wanted her mommy. Australia's Heath Spence had his jeans torn apart.

No one ever forgets that first bobsled ride. Not even Olympians.

It's terrifying, exhilarating, nauseating and addicting, sometimes all at once. And for those who decide to take up the sport full time, bobsled can lead to broken bones, concussions, separated shoulders, dizziness, cuts, bruises, punctures, ice burns, chronic back ache and other ailments.

Sounds fun, huh?

"It's like getting kicked down the hill in a garbage can with four guys," said Canadian driver Justin Kripps. "It's really, really rough."

Bone-jarring and brutal, imagine being in 15 car accidents in a minute — at 80 mph.

There's no way to adequately describe what it's like to hurtle down an icy, mountain track by watching bobsled. TV does the sport no justice. The only way to fully appreciate the danger and risk involved, and the courage it takes to ride, is to jump in and go for a harrowing spin.

That, or talk to someone who does it almost every day.

Most bobsledders bristle when they hear their sport described as a rollercoaster.

Maybe one in hell.

"There's no padding," Spence said Wednesday after training with his Australia-1 teammates for this weekend's four-man competition. "There's no seatbelts. There's no airbags. There's no cushioning. There's no anything. It's violent. Imagine going in your car on the freeway with your three mates, you're trying to do 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph), you're on slick tires, the suspension is hard rock and it's snowing, and there's no brakes.

"Good luck."

After failing to win a medal in two Summer Olympics, Jones switched from the hurdles to bobsled so she could pursue her dream. Her maiden voyage in a bobsled came on Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y., a punishing track for the most seasoned slider, never mind a newcomer.

"It was awful," said Jones, the brakeman in USA-3 for driver Jazmine Fenlator. "I'm praying in the bobsled and then you don't know where you're at and you stop praying and you start screaming. I wondered if I would last. I wondered if I would be able to do a whole season with them.

"Forget the Olympics, I didn't know if I could handle a few weeks. But it gets better."