UK Sport Supporting British athletes

Mechanical Engineer
Through our partnership with UK Sport, the GB Skeleton team asked for engineering support in the season running up to Beijing, next year.
As I write, it's -20c, and I've been standing next to a bend in an icy trench for the past 3 hours. My job today is filming athletes as they whizz past me at over 120km/hr. Thanks to that speed I've only been able to film a grand total of 37 seconds of footage, half of which is of empty track waiting for the sled to appear!
 
Despite the cold I have no complaints whatsoever. I'm in one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited, St Moritz Switzerland, accompanying the British Skeleton athletes on their 2020/21 world cup circuit. Several of our athletes have also enjoyed podium finishes since I started with the team - Matt Weston won a World Cup silver last December in Innsbruck, while Ashleigh Pittaway won Bronze in the Junior World Championship at the end of January. Craig Thompson won a World Cup Silver in Igls last week and Marcus Wyatt won a Bronze in the Sigulda World Cup.
 
Image showing Dave Short, Jon Kerr, Ashleigh Pittaway, Natalie Dunman, Jimmy Howard.
 
I’m in the unusual position of being able to travel, so that I can support the British team on training and during competitions. As you can imagine, we’re strictly following the UK Sport and national guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing, so it’s not entirely a glamourous experience. I’m either at the track or confined to my hotel room, but it’s still great to be here and helping.
 

Why am I here supporting the team?

 
As part of BAE Systems’ partnership with UK Sport, the GB Skeleton team asked for engineering support in the season running up to Beijing, next year. I jumped at the chance to put my name forward and was lucky enough to be chosen for the role.
 
My job out here is to support the athletes by setting up and maintaining their Skeleton sleds. The sled looks simple on the outside - a carbon fibre body on a steel chassis, which the athlete lies on top of. Underneath are two steel runners which slide along the ice. The sled and its runners are then tailored to specific athletes, tracks and even weather conditions. I’m here to help with the hands on maintenance of the sleds, but also applying my engineering knowledge to help influence the equipment setup decisions based on athlete feedback and performance.
 

How long am I with the team?

 

I've spent 7 weeks with the team since October 20, supporting them during their pre-season training in Sigulda (Latvia) and also at "World Cup" events in Sigulda, Igls (Austria) and now St Moritz.  I’m about half-way through now, so should be helping at a couple more events as Covid allows.
 
The role is not all technical. My responsibilities have also included bus driver, cameraman, lunch deliveryman, agony aunt to struggling athletes and even cobbler (skeleton athletes have a bad habit of destroying their spike shoes!)
 
I hope you found this update and the images interesting. If you want to follow the progress of the team, all the races are live streamed on YouTube, and the past races are there too. Just search "IBSF Skeleton 2021". I’m now out again in Altenburg, Germany - either in a hotel room or next to the track… 
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Jon Kerr Mechanical Engineer 4 March 2021