Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a winter olympian?
Ever pondered how a speed skater trains to nail a place in the lycra clad pack, or how a bobsleigh or skeleton specialist practises for the perfect start?
With the winter games almost here, we bring you the low down on how pros prepare to compete for the ultimate prize: gold at Sochi.
Ski like Bode Miller
The truth is nobody skis like Bode Miller. But anyone can train like him. That’s because the USA’s finest downhill and slalom skier trains like an old school olympian. Remember the movie, Rocky IV? It’s the one where Rocky trains for his fight against Russian baddie, Ivan Drago in and around a remote cabin in Siberia. There he runs in the snow, and heaves farm equipment about with not so much as a sports drink or supplement to keep him going. That’s what Bode Miller does.
In a barn in New Hampshire, Miller trains the old fashioned way. Think, two footed jumps over homemade hurdles and a squatting machine that looks like it he welded it together himself. Outside, the regime takes in uphill wheelbarrow pushes and downhill runs carrying a loaded backpack, rock hopping and slack-lining. Traditionally Alpine skiers have lifted heavy, but a skier has to be able to take whatever the mountain throws at him or her. That’s why Miller trains this way – to build in unpredictability.
Bobsleigh like the Brits
Britain’s four man bobsleigh team went from 10th in 2012 to 7th in last year’s World Championships and they’ve just won silver at the European Championships in Germany. A team on the up, they’re definitely one to watch at the winter olympics. But what’s driving the improvement?
With a four man team, it’s always hard to say and there’s no doubt experience and team training have much to do with it. But it is interesting that forming one quarter of the team is sprinter, Joel Fearon. Last summer, the 25 year old excelled on the track, setting a new personal best of 10.10 seconds over 100m. Bobsleigh is all about explosive power, speed and precision. The message is clear – if you want to slide fast, you have to train to run fast.
2006 winter olympics silver medalist, Shelley Rudman will again be hurtling head first downhill in Sochi next month. But how do you prepare for an event like this? Rudman is a comparative lightweight at only 54kg so to even things up with the heavier girls, she has to push a 35kg sled – the maximum weight allowed. Her training schedule is low on cardio, high in strength, core and speed work. And her diet is high in carbs to keep her weight up.
But more than anything, Shelley says she’s a driver. She either clicks with a track or she doesn’t. Two weeks of training runs at Sochi before Christmas were her opportunity to get to know the quirks of a new track. Let’s hope she liked it.
If you fancy a go at skeleton you could always book yourself a slot at the world famous Cresta run in St Moritz. Owned and operated by the St.Moritz Tobogganing Club, this male only club is a throwback to the days when women weren’t allowed to have fun. If our marvellous Shelley is anything to go by, perhaps they’re just scared of the competition. They should be.
Speed-skate like Apolo Ohno
The most decorated US winter olympian ever with four bronze, two silver and two gold medals to his name, the short course speed skater, Apolo Ohno is now a TV entertainer and healthy living campaigner. His personal motto is to have no regrets. When it came to speed skating that meant some hard, hard training. Speed skating is the fastest self propelled sport on the planet, with athletes reaching speeds of over 30 mph perched atop skates with blades like razors. So what does it take to hit the top of a sport like this?
Cross training and loads of it. That’s because speed skating is all about speed, stamina, and strength. And because of the unique demands of the sport – think cornering at top speed while continuing to skate, in a squat position, bent double – the exercises are pretty specific. Interval work means 45 minutes of non stop stair jumps. And no, that’s not a typo, we mean three quarters of an hour hopping and jumping up flights of stairs. Ouch!
Cross country ski like Andy Musgrove
One athlete who’ll be going to Sochi in top form is Great Britain’s Andy Musgrove. The Scot recently won the cross country skiing freestyle sprint at the Norwegian Championships in Lillehammer. While the achievement prompted barely any reaction in this country, in Norway, the story was front page news. The Norwegians were stunned at being beaten at their own game.
To keep in shape during the summer, Andy combines cycling, running and roller skiing, with strength and core work at the gym. But it’s when he’s back in the snow that he really comes into his own. He now lives and studies at University in Norway which enables him to fit two gruelling training sessions into each day.
Cross country courses can be over 50 km long taking around two hours to complete. But Musgrove’s best chance will be in the sprint event where competitors race over a tough 1.5 km course, battling through knockout rounds to reach the final. If you fancy a go, there are plenty of winter holiday operators who offer a taste of cross country – but be warned, it’s hard work. Cross country skiing works all the muscle groups at the same time and is arguably the toughest sport known to man.