Okay, so there was a Chris Bosh bobblehead doll giveaway last night at the Raptors game. But anyone who’s had a chance go down a bobsleigh run – and your correspondent got that chance after the 1986 world championships in Konigssee, Germany – knows what it’s like to be a real live bobblehead, or maybe that should be bobblesledhead.
Maybe it was because no one told me you’re supposed to bury your head back into your neck – bracing yourself sort of like a turtle – to prepare for the g-forces. Or maybe they told me and I didn’t hear them (a theory my wife and daughter would buy for sure).
Anyway, my head rattled off the inside of the sled all the way down the track (which might explain my great interest in the issue of concussions). The picture that came to mind was one of those bobblehead dolls in the back of somebody’s car window as they barrel down a bumpy country backroad. Luckily, they only started the sled from a third of the way down the Konigssee track.
We’d spent a lot of time that year covering the Canadian bobsleigh team – this was during the Chris Lori/Greg Haydenluck era for those who might remember (Okay, it’s a precious few). The coach at the time, a friendly enough guy named Werner Delle Karth who used to race for the Austrians, thought it would be good for us to get a first-hand perspective.
Bobsledders can be some of the most ornery, testosterone-filled athletes you’ll ever come across, but back then there was still a freshness, almost an innocence to the Canadian guys as they tried to climb their way up the ladder.
Best party we ever went to in four years spent covering Canadian Olympic athletes overseas in the mid ‘80s was a bobsleigh bash in Cervinia, Italy, kind of the Kitzbuehel of the sport. The course there is the most treacherous in bobsled. It almost killed Lori, who will be the expert commentator for CTV during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
So it’s a place the sledders are really ready to let loose after surviving on the track. This party featured skits from all the different teams – the British guys did this hilarious routine to music where they came out naked with their private bits were only covered by balloons that they kept moving to the beat of the tune. (Guess you had to be there, but the dudes were really in sync.)
The highlight was one of the Russian athletes, strumming on his guitar and singing Latvian folk songs. This was the Cold War era so there tended not to be a lot of fraternization with the East Bloc countries. Plus, the Latvian athletes at that time were still forced to compete for Russia so it was a special thing for this proud Latvian to be able to express himself in front of his peers. That expression was helped by the fact he was totally bombed.
The next day, the bobsledders had training for the four-man event and news came back that our Latvian friend threw up in his sled. Knowing the head rattling that can take place at those speeds, one can only imagine that hangover.
Wanna see what it feels like inside a sled? Check this out:
How it can all go wrong:
Couple more bobsled vids to check out (Click on title)