That stuff about my spine popping out was just to get me really bricking it – wasn’t it?
That back brace they told me to put on. It was just a precaution, right?
The Olympic bobsleigh at Lillehammer is not for the faint hearted. Literally. Before we got kitted out for the ride we had to sign a disclaimer form and were that if we had the slightest concerns about having a weak heart we should not do it. It takes just 55 seconds from top to bottom. By the final bend you’re travelling at nearly 100 miles per hour with 5gs of pressure pushing down no you. That’s the kind of g-force fighter pilots experience.
Usually you get a warm-up run on an inflatable raft which goes a lot slower, so there’s time to decide if you’re hard enough to handle the full-on sled, but we were in a hurry. Sat in the briefing hut, clasping steaming cups of hot cloudberry juice we were told it was going to be one run each, no messing about. Any questions?
The music over the loudspeakers was We Will Rock You by Queen. Were they having a laugh?
Maybe they’d hit us with some of Norwegian pop sensations Ah-a’s classics as we careered down: The Living Daylights seemed rather appropriate.
At the top, our back braces and helmets were checked to make sure they fitted OK. Then it was time to cram into the four-man bob. Jørn our driver told me he’d been doing the bobsled run for seven years. But I still felt very nervous. I was sat at the back with just a couple of handles inside to hold on to. Max the guy in front was sat tight between my legs. Because you’re so squashed in, you actually feel quite protected.
It starts off slowly enough. For around 10 seconds I could admire the views of distant snowy mountains.
Then we hit the first curve and I was screaming like a baby.
The acceleration is almost immediate. You thunder round the bends, the runners on the sled screech and scrape. It’s incredibly noisy. The last couple of bends are a rush of noise and vibrations. For a moment you feel this huge pressure pushing down on your head and real pain in the small of your back. Just as I was beginning to find it a bit too uncomfortable, we were cruising up the slow-down zone and the noise had stopped. There was a strange sense of calm. They almost had to carry me out of the sled I was shaking so much. Given half a chance I’d have run straight back up for another go, it’s probably the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced.
Fancy getting the bends?
Do The Tour: Try it for yourself on a Winter Adventure short break with Exodus.
Find Out More: The Lillehammer Olympic Park website.