Skeleton looking to recruit strong muscles

SCREAMING down a sheet of ice at 130 kilometres per hour, the speed when most people begin composing something pithy for their tombstone, Jane Channell has a different thought: she wants to go faster.

After running track and playing softball for Simon Fraser University, the North Vancouver native decided to pursue skeleton, partially due to her contrary nature.

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Watching speedsuit clad athletes break into a sprint before bounding onto steelframed sleds and flying facefirst down an ice track at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics piqued Channell's curiosity, but it annoyed her uncle.

"He was like, 'Those people are crazy,' and half to spite him, I was like, 'Well, I'm going to do that,'" Channell says.

The North Vancouver native is currently in training for a Talent ID Camp on July 7 at the Richmond Oval.

An experienced sprinter, Channell has been running and lifting weights in anticipation of the camp.

"For now, it's all dry land training just because there's no ice anywhere," she says.

The Richmond camp will likely include a 30-metre dash on the ice, (skeleton athletes wear spiked shoes), as well as a sled pull and a test of the participants' weight lifting limits.

Officials from the B.C. Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association evaluate the sultans of sled to consider their potential for competitive programs.

"I've been sleeping terrible or rather not at all because I can't wait to get back on Matt Black," Channell wrote on See Jane Slide, her blog dedicated to her quest to slide into the Olympics.

Her sled is named Matt Black after its colour, matte black.

Following the Talent ID Camp in Richmond, Channell plans to train in Alberta.

"We have a few camps out in Calgary where they have an indoor start house where you can practise your start, which is one of the crucial components of the race," she says.

With her siblings playing hockey and baseball, Channell grew up in an athletic family.

"My mom and dad met playing at SFU on the intramural softball team," she says.

Her father, a former football player, was thrilled at his daughter's decision to train for skeleton, but Channell's mother was more reticent.

"My dad thought it was awesome but my mom wouldn't for the longest time come up and watch. . . . She still doesn't like the idea of it, but she'd better get used to it," Channell says with a laugh. "It's actually the safest of the three sports between bobsled, skeleton and luge, luge being the most dangerous."

Asked if she's had any injuries, Channell laughs.

"Yeah," she replies, reminiscing about a 270degree turn on a track in Calgary.

"I came out of the corner wrong and just rocked the wall and it looked like my left arm got hit by a car and I'd given myself a pretty wicked black eye. No concussions for me, knock on wood, but a few of my teammates have unfortunately gotten concussions."

Despite the injury, the sport's appeal is fairly straightforward, according to Channell.

"The speed and the adrenaline rush. It is dangerous, yes, but you don't really have the time to think about that when you're going down," she says.

In order to prepare for the influx of dopamine when she tears down the track, Channell says she precedes each race by listening to an ethereal, lullaby-sounding song called "Glosoli" by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros

"All my friends make fun of me for it," she said. The sport relies heavily on body awareness and timing, according to Channell.

"You need to know if you're going into a corner late or early," she says, explaining that making a late move to round a corner can gain a slider unwanted altitude.

"When you go in late you just roof it and then you come back down and hit the bottom and it's just a mess, so with most corners you normally want to go in early."

Channell's biggest advantage may be her training location. "One of the perks about training at Whistler, because it's the most technical and fastest track in the world, it kind of desensitizes you to all the other tracks," she says. "The bumps and bruises (on the other tracks) are nowhere near as bad as our home track here on Whistler."

The training can be costly.

"When we're actually sliding up at Whistler, we're going six days a week, and it gets quite expensive . . . because you pay per run," she says. "One of my main focuses for the summer is to look for sponsorships, or, I'd rather call them partnerships, with companies, to help with funding for next year."

While a run down the skeleton track is usually over in a few minutes, Channell is aware her journey may be a long one.

"Clearly, I would love to go to Sochi in 2014, but because this is only my second year coming up of sledding, I think that 2018 in South Korea is more of a realistic goal for me. But for right now, in order to push myself to the fullest, I am, in my head, aiming for 2014."

For more information on upcoming Talent ID Camps visit www.slidebc.ca.

jshepherd@nsnews.com

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