Lieutenant Commander Ed Rolls
Olympic Luge is an extremely technical sport where the slider has to possess an icy cool, analytical temperament and to master control over their natural survival instincts when they experience difficulties on the ice. And as is the case with any risky sport, these difficulties can occur all too frequently. Luge is – when you stop and consider it – a fantastically dangerous sport which relies on the unflappable, calm and dispassionate abilities of the slider to remain relaxed and focussed whilst travelling at 70mph, with no brakes, and only a thin layer of lycra between them and a hospital appointment. To make things more complicated, much like Formula 1, steering and cornering actually improve the faster you are travelling. This constant search for extra speed puts the slider under even further pressure to go faster, yet they must maintain a relaxed composure to gain the best, and therefore speediest, line through the twists and turns of the ice track. The difference between winning and losing is down to fractions of a second, sometimes less than the length of time it takes you to blink your eyes!
The 2016/17 season saw a great deal of promise from all three Services, culminating in the Inter Service Championships held in Lillehammer, Norway. Back at the start of the season, the Army once again extended tremendous hospitality towards the RN by making spaces available for their ab initio sliders to learn the ropes on their Ice Camp, run in Igls, Austria. The RAF similarly ran their Ice Camp too, and then single service Novice camps from the Army and RAF followed, along with various individuals’ participation in International events. The season finished with a bang in the form of the Inters held in February/March.
From an individuals’ perspective, Sgt Danni Scott (Army) and Gdsm Ray Thompson (Army) have had a busy year on the International circuit. Both participated in the International Training Week for the Olympics in PyeongChang, where Ray was sliding as an individual and as part of a doubles team, and Danni was sliding singles. At the time of writing, both have four more races to try and qualify for an Olympic place ahead of Christmas. Cpl Danny Burke (RAF) and SAC Mark McQuitty (RAF – pictured above) have also joined in the fun, with Mark racing in the Igls Nations Cup, and both taking part in the Winterberg Nations Cup at the end of November.
The Inter Service Championships were eventful, with all three Services having conducted a final week of single Service training immediately beforehand. The military Ice community had not been to Lillehammer for a decade, and so after an initial few ‘pipe-cleaning’ laufs, the vast majority of athletes were back in the groove, and performing well. In terms of injuries, there were mercifully few with only bruising, a few cuts to the face and a dislocated shoulder to show. Sadly, these injuries meant that the RN could only field a team of four, and the eventual result was a well deserved, if very close, win for the Army, with the RAF as runner up. In the individuals’ races Gdsm Ray Thompson (Army – pictured above) finished first for the men, with Cpl Danny Burke (RAF) runner up. For the ladies, Sgt Danni Scott (Army– pictured above) finished first, with Flt Lt Sarah Shekhdar (RAF) as runner up.
The 2018 Inter-Services Championships will move back to Igls, Austria. Although familiar to most sliders, this gives a chance to consolidate skills with (hopefully) minimal risk of injury. In terms of organisational skills, the logistics of getting three teams to Austria is rather more straightforward and a lot less expensive than Norway! With luck, we look forward to seeing you there.