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How I Sled into Bobsled and the Olympics (Part 1)

How I Sled into Bobsled and the Olympics (Part 1)

This month’s CORE theme is Pilates for Athletes. Each week we’ll be featuring a story from the Athletes perspective and the influence Pilates has made on their lives. 

 

1993 – There I was sprinting around the running track passing a rugby ball to and fro with my training partner.

Back then I would never have dreamed that the words in the title would trigger such an elevated heart rate, extreme anticipation, a heightened adrenal rush and a minute of extreme sensory buzz. Yes, it only lasts about a minute. But that’s a feeling one is unlikely to experience again. That is until you slide again. You can reach up to 93mph with nothing but Lycra between your skin and flesh-burning ice, should you crash!

Mind you, back then I would also have never believed it if you told me I’d be running my own Pilates studio and be a Balanced Body Master Instructor. But, back to the story.

On the running track, I would often see a young guy being coached in sprint drills by a fit strong coach by the name of Nick Phipps (two-time Olympian, hero and now good friend). Eventually we struck up a conversation, exchanged pleasantries and I soon discovered the young guy, Nicholas was trying to qualify for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics in bobsled. He was representing Hungary and their first-ever attempt at this sport (a bit like the Jamaican Cool Runnings of Central Europe). Being the funny guy, I said, “I’m of Hungarian stock, can I play?”

Nick (Nicholas) asked me if I thought I could push a Bob? “Of course! I’m a rugby prop, I’m built to push and shunt anything!” How naïve was I?? And that was that – we went away and mentioned this encounter to our respective fathers and low and behold, it transpired they had known each other as school kids.

Nick did invite me out to the training ground where the British Bob team practiced pushing a makeshift Bob on wheels. I did pretty well there. That’s not a patch on the real thing though, NOTHING prepares you for the real thing!

I had just started my then business when two months later I received a call out of the blue. It was Nick who said “Pete, we’re at the World Championship finals, we have our points so only need to complete this race to qualify for Lillehammer. The problem is that my brakeman is injured, would you come out and push?”

Er…. Doh.. ok!

Within days I was in St. Moritz at the first-ever man-made bobsled track, built-in 1902. It’s a punishing track including battering turns and a 180-degree Horseshoe curve, with a wall measuring 20 Ft high that spits you out at up to 5G’s.

JEEZ, what have I let myself in for?

I had never seen a real Bobsleigh or Bob track before this point. I was mixing with the world’s best, I had to get licensed, and a permit rushed through and then jump in feet first. What was I doing!?

 

Check out this video to see how using a reformer can be quite similar to the approach to mimicking a bobsled start!


Pete Pallai is a two-time Olympian, Balanced Body Master Instructor, Lululemon ambassador, and studio owner of myPilateslondon. Follow him on IG @mypilateslondon.

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