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Today's word on

Friday, April 8, 2005

"Once you have learned how to ask questions, you have learned how to learn."

--Neil Postman, journalism scholar (1931-2003)

USU JCOM NEWS NOTE: THE JCOM Department celebrates the Class of 2005 Friday with JDay, showcasing the best of student work in print and
broadcast journalism, the Web, photo, and public relations. Followed by the annual JCOM Awards Banquet--student awards, 2005-06 scholarship winner, speaker Robert Kirby of the Salt Lake Tribune, all with fine dining. For information or reservations, contact the USU JCOM Department at or 435-797-3292.

70 mph on the skeleton, and I scream like a little girl

By Jared Ocana

March 9, 2005 | To the average person, going 70 mph while lying on their stomach and having their chin just two inches away from the skin-shaving ice seems more like torture than a sport. Yet, to those who do skeleton this type of torture is pure adrenaline-soaked fun.

This unique sport began in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and is very similar to its big brother sports, luge and bobsleigh. In skeleton, a single athlete will ride a sled that looks very similar to a cafeteria tray down a course that is also used for luge and bobsleigh. The rider, to start, will push off a nailed-down two-by-four and will continue to run 50 to 200 feet while pushing the sled, then will jump and land on the sled trying to increase speed. Throughout the turns and curves of the course, the rider can manipulate the sled by subtle movements of the shoulders and knees.

Like most Utahns, I got caught up in the excitement of having the 2002 Winter Olympics in my back yard, however, in its first appearance as a sanctioned sport in the Olympics, skeleton really caught my fancy.

During the Games, watching the sport on television, I just kept thinking to myself, that seems easy enough, I could certainly do that, so with a little research and motivation, I attended a four-test athlete combine in Park City, Utah the following summer. At this athlete combine, with my collegiate track and field experience, I excelled and was encouraged to attend a training school at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City later that year in November, which I did enthusiastically.

Upon arrival, driving to the training facility, the course, which is situated in a dark ravine, is brilliantly lit up compared with the black background of the mountain. Finding myself arriving early, I wandered into the finish line lobby, where the entire mile plus course can be seen. Standing there, looking out through the tall glass windows, a few riders just finishing their runs came in and I overheard one said to the other, "Man, I'm happy as hell. My top speed was 73 on that last run."

Now, me being someone who hardly ever reaches that speed in my car, I began to have some seconds thoughts on my decision.

I then proceeded to meet up with others who have also embarked on this journey and I get the sense from them that none of them have any problem getting put in traction.

We are sitting there in this conference room and as we are reading and signing the legal contracts, the director of the school begins to tell us about the possible injuries we may incur from competing in this sport: broken bones, deep muscle contusions, paralysis, loss of limbs, and to top it off even death. With my stomach in knots and my thoughts pondering what would my life be like if I didn't have a leg, they move us into a room where they have sleds on the ground. Our instructor performs the proper way to lie down on the sled and then asks us to do the same.

It takes a matter of five minutes for everyone to properly learn this and then the instructor says that we have to catch the shuttle for our next lesson. Riding the shuttle, my thoughts are being diverted by the conversations with the other beginners. The shuttle then stops and we unload expecting another building to walk into, but there is no such thing in sight and all there is our instructor standing there with a big grin on his face standing next to a gate that allows access to the track.

Walking through the gate I see why our instructor is smiling, there is a row of sleds lined up and on each one there is a helmet and he looks at us and says, "Who's first?" Not even thinking, I raised my hand, and he motions me over to a sled and tells me to put on the helmet and grab the sled, but it happens that what I'm about to do is not registering in my brain because I am perfectly calm. As I step onto the ice and I put down the sled in the grooves, I do still not fully understand what is about to happen. The instructor tells me to lie down, and when I am finally situated properly, he gets behind the sled and grabs my feet and pushes me down the track and as I am starting to move I hear him say, "Have fun!"

As soon as he finished saying that and me now only being about 10 feet down the track, it clicks what is going on and I begin to scream like a little girl. I am now moving pretty fast and a turn is quickly approaching, so I did what any other person would do in this situation. . . . I screamed louder. Being fully engaged now, I continue to scream through each turn as I hit the walls of the ice, which is actually pretty painful.

Passing through the finish line I am now slowing down as the track is pointed up hill now and when the sled comes to a stop I slowly get up and pull the sled off the track and carry it into the lobby.

Standing in the lobby, almost being in a catatonic-like state, I suddenly realized everything and simply stated "Holy *&!#. That was fun!"


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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