By Robert Mayers - Retrieved from http://www.shu.edu/news/article/329000
Bradley Chalupski, J.D. ’10 is going to be the first Israeli born athlete to compete at the Skeleton World Championships. The Pirate Press sat down with Bradley to ask him about the unique sport of Skeleton and how he prepares for competition. We also spoke to him about what it means to represent his country on such a grand scale.
PP: How did you become involved with skeleton?
BC: Honestly? I saw it on the television and thought it looked like fun. No joke. I was sitting in my dorm room my senior year of college watching the 2006 Olympics in Torino and saw this ridiculously awesome looking sport. I said to myself, "That looks like a ton of fun and I bet I could be good at that."
PP: For those who are unfamiliar, what exactly is Skeleton and what does a competition involve?
BC: Skeleton is most easily described as head-first luge. I go head-first down an ice chute at speeds up to 78mph. It is contested on the same track as luge and bobsled. The sled stands about half a foot tall on its blades (known as "runners") and has some pieces of steel welded onto it to keep me in the center (known as the "saddle") as I go down the track. I refer to it as my “flying cookie-sheet." I bend over, grab onto one side of the saddle, and literally push the sled by running with one hand on and the other hand off, which I use for balance and to generate momentum. I run in this way about 40 meters before I leap on top of the sled, and lie down. Unlike luge or bobsled the sled that I use does not have a steering mechanism proper, and so once I am lying down on the sled I instead rely on subtle movements of my head, shoulders, knees, and toes to drive the sled where I want it to go.
As for a competition, the basic format is two runs down the track and the best combined time wins. There are certain protocols on race day (runner temperature, weight requirements, etc.) which are to be taken into consideration as well. All tracks, with few exceptions, are about a mile long so you are basically racing on two miles of ice. It is not uncommon to have the difference between first and third be less than a tenth of a second. A recent World Cup race was won by literally one-one-thousandth of a second. I myself just missed Israel's first medal in an FIBT Skeleton competition by 0.2 seconds over two miles of ice. It's tough, but it's the nature of the sport and you know it when you sign up for it.
PP: What are the dangers involved and do you take any extra safety precautions during practice and events?
BC: There are dangers involved in this sport? Really? But in all seriousness, Skeleton is definitely an intense, extreme sport. Really all that I wear when I go down the mountain is a helmet, a long-track ice skating speed suit, and my spikes (which allow me to run on ice). The thing that most people are amazed to learn about Skeleton is that it is actually the safest of the three sliding sports (luge, bobsled, skeleton). It sounds so crazy because we go head-first, but that is actually the safest way to do it.
I have come off of my sled two times in my life, and both times I simply went sliding down the track on my butt until I stopped. I didn't have a scratch on me. Moreover, I actually took another run that day after coming entirely off my sled. That would never happen in Luge.
PP: You are going to become the first Israeli athlete to participate in the Skeleton World Championships. How does it feel to represent your country?
BC: It goes without saying that it is a huge honor. Israel is such a unique country in the history of the world that it really is more than just a country that I am representing; it is in fact an entire people. Every day I remind myself of what I am representing. It is not every person that gets to be the representative of their country or people. Whenever we do anything, we always remember that it is not we who are acting, but Israel and do our best to live up to being worthy representatives.
PP: Are you more nervous or excited for the World Championship stage?
BC: It is a huge honor to be representing Israel at this year's World Championships. I wouldn't say that I am nervous, since I am not expected to win anything and ultimately I am just there to compete. I think it is the type of thing that I will not truly grasp the magnitude of until I am there. However, my goal is to do my thing and represent myself and Israel with dignity and pride. Bobsledding is huge in Germany, and I am told that more than 10,000 spectators are expected to show up for the event.