Back on the Ice: Sliding At Speed

By Senior Aircraftwoman Chelsea Medlock

Natural Luge is a sport which I discovered whilst on SATTs at RAF Halton over three years ago – I was instantly hooked.

A year on from my last Ice Camp, it was once again time to travel to Lüsen in Northern Italy to experience more time on the ice. This was my second year competing at intermediate level; progressing from a novice means longer tracks, more speed and much more adrenaline.

At the start of Ice Camp our instructors familiarised everyone with the basic drills to ensure we were content with all of the safety aspects of the sport, as the majority of us hadn’t revisited these skills for over a year.

Nothing can prepare you for the speed you build up as the length of the runs increase, but it’s one of the reasons we all take part in the sport – the thrill of completing the track, beating your own times as well as the times of others. Before it was time for us to even think about the times we wanted on race day, the moment finally came to hit the track for training. The first few days were spent learning the track bit by bit, creating a mental image of the course for when we eventually piece it all together. The importance of control was drilled into us all as without this we couldn’t safely gain speed on the track and things can quickly go wrong if you lose concentration.

All of the customary feelings quickly resurfaced when the time came to slide, with excitement and nerves taking over. I’d like to say that getting back on the sled was like riding a bike, but there were definitely a few bumps along the way. It was important that our mishaps or crashes didn’t dishearten us from giving it another go.

Even though the runs took minutes or seconds to complete, the walk back up with the sled certainly did not. The days saw us reaching high step counts on our fitness trackers, with highs of around 16,000 steps as we climbed to the start of the track. This year we had several novices join the team who initially received one-to-one training but quickly joined the intermediates due to their progression over the first couple of days. With low temperatures throughout the week, a day of snow cut training short. We decided to take a much-needed break and visited the local town of Brixen, exploring the local amenities and, most importantly, trying traditional Italian pizza.

Our week at the Ice Camp came to an end with a final training day, followed by the all-important and anticipated race day. There were two race categories and a total of six medals to be won. Before the actual race we all got one practice run on the full track. It was important that we all treated the practice run as our actual run in order to get ourselves in the right frame of mind. The nerves were a challenge and emotions were running high, with a few mishaps occurring in the practice runs.

The results of the races were revealed once everyone had completed their runs. The novice category was won by Flying Officer Josh Main, with Senior Aircraftman Dulan Patabendi and Corporal Matt Painter taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. The second and final race category was to crown the overall RAF Champion. Senior Aircraftman Technician Sam Budd took 1st place with the fastest time, followed by Corporal Lizzie Driver in 2nd place, with Flying Officer Josh Main, receiving his second medal of the competition, in 3rd. I think it’s safe to say we are all looking forward to getting back on the ice next year.