Skeleton Luger
Interview by Thom Drance

 

S

ean Greenwood is a Canadian skeleton luger and helicopter pilot who lives beside Chad Kroeger in beautiful West Vancouver. One time he lived on a boat for a summer and he’s the reason my passport is warped by the ocean. We were drinking on the beach and started wading into the ocean. I tripped on a rock. The interviewer, Thom Drance, is his friend from high school who likes to use Twitter and watch hockey. This is their conversation. -Ed.

Can you walk us through your thought process the first time you found yourself tobogganing down a run?

Well you’re sitting in this hut, it’s like minus thirty outside and you’re just hoping that you can at least react to certain things cause you have no idea how to steer or anything. So you’re sitting there, making sure your equipment is on right and double checking all that then your name gets called and it’s almost instantaneous. The second you hear your name called you’re shot out of a loaded spring type thing – you just have to keep calm and hopefully ride it out.

Have you found that skeleton itself has satisfied the part of you that craves for a rush or do you still search out new and bigger challenges?

It’s hard to say. Most of the training is done at night so the ice is harder and most of the people have to work in the day. You do four runs or so and you’re so full of adrenaline that by the end of it all you can’t go to sleep until like 3:30 in the morning. The moment that you come off of the sled you go through this extreme stress/adventure type thing. That only lasts a minute maximum. But when you’re in it there’s absolutely nothing else going on. And I think for me to do anything else outside of skeleton, on top of flying helicopters. is taking too much risk on a portfolio that’s already maxed out.

So, even though it's a different sport what were your thoughts when you saw Nodar Kumaritashvili die while practicing on the luge track at the Vancouver Olympics?

I watched that video quite a few times, cause I was interested in that event, and it’s pretty close to home. The fact that the coverage actually had the full length of the run and broadcast it is kind of an event in itself. With luge, especially if you start freaking out, you need to put your feet down because in every corner there are oscillations. So, it’s kind of like a sine curve, and some curves have longer oscillations or more oscillations than others. In that corner, corner 16, you hear him put his feet down. You could just tell that he was nervous as he entered that corner cause he was going 156km/h, I think, at the time. Luge is faster than Skeleton. Also, there are a few more stresses in terms of G-forces and other things. So Nodar hit the short-wall and he almost tried to get off his sled. It’s fight or flight man and it seemed like he was trying to flight that thing. I definitely learned a lot from that, but I haven’t had any major incidences or accidents in that corner. Though I have broken my sled on that same wall.

So you've trained on that track?

Yeah, all this year.

Is it spooky?

You’re not doing the sport to be safe. It’s like the Mario Andretti quote, “if you’re in control you’re not going fast enough”. You have to push the envelope to an extent and knowing that is the difference between an amateur and a pro-athlete.

Fair enough, what tends to impress random girls you meet at the bar more - the fact that you fly 'copters or the fact you do 5 Gs head first on a sled?

I think it’s the helicopters because nobody really understands the whole skeleton thing. I try to explain it to them but unless they’ve literally seen it, they have no idea what I’m talking about.

What's the fastest you've gone on a sled?

147/148 KM per hour...

Fuck.

Yeah.

Originally published in Spring 2011, Issue 5.2.