Speed Demon

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    By Brock Bergeson

    The World University Games in Innbruck, Austria will have a familiar face from BYU competing in the unique sport of skeleton.

    Chris Hedquist, a senior from Salt Lake City, majoring in political science, is also a proud member of the U.S. Skeleton team.

    ?Skeleton takes athleticism and adds in the mental focus in order to do well,? Hedquist said.

    2005 will be the first year that the sport of skeleton will be held at the World University Games.

    The sport of skeleton has been around for many years. In 1928 and 1948, the American team won gold. Skeleton then went into hiding because of the level of danger that is involved in the sport.

    ?Skeleton is like when you were a kid getting that first adrenal rush when you went sledding,? Hedquist said. ?You have to perform at a high level with a small margin of error.?

    Skeleton is similar to the luge. The main difference between the two sports is in the luge, the athlete travels feet first down a course. In skeleton, the athlete travels head first. This is the main reason why so much danger surrounds the sport.

    Hedquist got involved in the sport of luge when he was 12 years old. He continued his interest in luge until the age of 19 when he served a mission to Denmark.

    Upon returning home from his mission, a good friend won a gold medal in skeleton. This helped Hedquist make the jump from luge to skeleton.

    Athletes that are involved with skeleton refer to themselves as ?sliders.? On any given course, the ?sliders? can encounter speeds in excess of 70 mph. While maneuvering the curves of the course, they can only steer with their shoulders and knees ? an act much easier said than done while an athlete is trying to maneuver with three or four G?s pushing down on their body.

    In 2002, his first year participating in skeleton, Hedquist managed to do so well that he won rookie of the year. In 2003, he made the U.S.A. National Team. To do so well so quick was something not known in the sport and the accolades for Hedquist continue

    In December 2004, Hedquist was on the Euro tour and had training times that were a second faster than the rest of the competition, which in the skeleton is unheard of. On his first run of the competition, he crashed into the wall forcing him into 20th place. But on his second run, he had one of the fastest times on the track that day. He would eventually take second place overall.

    Hedquist became well known on the international circuit and developed a large fan club when he traveled over to Europe for competitions. He would often find children coming up to him holding pictures of himself that he had never even seen before.

    Despite being a very intense and demanding sport, Hedquist said he thinks of it as a chance to ease his nerves.

    ?Skeleton is one of the most relaxing things,? Hedquist said.

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