UC develops Olympic skeleton sled

Feb 3, 2014

You won't get a very long look at it, considering the race only lasts about one minute, but a University of Cincinnati professor has designed a new and improved skeleton sled for the U.S. Olympic Team.

Grant Schaffner also improved the sled for the 2010 Olympics by making it stronger, flexible and designing it to smooth out the bumps and making it more steerable and controllable. For this Olympics he teamed with ProtoStar engineering, Fairfield-based Machintek Corporation, deBotech Inc of North Carolina and Carpenter Technology Corporation of Pennsylvania.

This time the design team eliminated metal frame bending issues to make the sled go faster.

A skeleton sled is a one-person sled that uses the same track in competition that is used by bobsled or luge. The skeleton sled has a speed range between 70-to-90 miles per hour. It supports the rider’s upper body as he or she races head-first and face-down on the sled toward the finish line.

To steer the sled during a competition run, the athlete applies shoulder and knee pressure to warp the sled frame, which in turn changes the amount of drag on the ice from spines cut into the rear portion of round steel runners that support the sled.

Schaffner says competitors also can help steer the sled by using their head like a wind vane, or by tapping their toes to create additional drag on the ice. They are pulling four Gs so their body weight is four times more than it would normally be and on a sled, that's a lot of force.

Three Olympians will use the new and improve skeleton. They are Matt Antoine, Katie Uhlaender and John Daly.