Skeleton may not be a widely well-known sport, only getting the big publicity during its events at the Winter Olympics, but it’s certainly one of the most dangerous.
Sliding down a frozen track, face down and head-first, with only a helmet, race suit and a sled for company, Skeleton athletes need unwavering confidence, determination and skill to compete in this incredible sport.
Freya Tarbit, a former long jumper for Derby Athletic, has spent the last three years getting comfortable on the icy track and has recently made her international debut representing Great Britain at the European Junior Championships, in Innsbruck, Austria.
Competing against people with years of experience, the 20-year-old didn’t let that hold her back, as she became the fastest Briton in the race and achieved fifth place overall.
She has spoken to Derbyshire Live about her experiences, her love of the sport and how she has her eyes on Winter Olympic glory.
She said: “It was incredible because all the other athletes competing have been doing this for years.
“When I got on the start line I had an inkling I was going to do well and perform, I wasn’t really thinking about the people watching me on the live stream and I just knew what I had to do.
“It was difficult because my parents weren’t there. When I competed for Derby Athletic they were always there for ever single race, it was a bit weird they weren’t there for the biggest competition I’ve ever done and representing Great Britain for the first time.”
Reaching speeds of more than 70 mph, Freya said that Skeleton is an “incredible” and “addictive” sport.
She said: “It’s a crazy sport because one of the main things you have to do is be relaxed because if you’re tense, you’ll send it into a skid and that was the hardest thing to get used to.
“When I started, I thought I’m doing 60 mph and ‘I’m meant to relax, how do I do that?'”
Freya first became interested in the winter sport after watching Skeleton legend Lizzy Yarnold, who won Gold for Great Britain in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympic games.
Inspired by her hero, she applied for a taster session at Bath University when she was 16, but pulled her hamstring and was unable to attend.
The following year, her father booked her in again and noticed a talent process called ‘Discover your Gold’ which is designed to find the next Winter Olympians.
Despite the application process being complete, her father emailed and asked if Freya could take part. They accepted and Freya was invited to an additional day for people like her who had missed out on the first round of trials.
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From 3,000 applicants, 10 were selected for a training camp in Lillehammer, Norway. Only three days into the two-week long training, Freya sustained a head injury and was sent home.
“I thought that was it, I didn’t think I’d get selected. I thought I’d not had enough time to show I could do it,” she said.
But her coaches were impressed and Freya was selected to join the final six athletes who would represent Team GB in the upcoming competitions.
Freya’s mother, Julie, says that her family were concerned when Freya was concussed.
Julie said: “We were worried for her, she had to come home on the plane which was hard because she didn’t feel well. You just have to not think about it as a parent.
“We’re really proud of what she achieved. To get picked out of all the thousands of people and then to do so well in her debut was amazing.”
Freya says she was less scared about getting back on the sled and more nervous about being behind her team mates.
She is now looking to compete in the junior competitions before looking at booking a spot at the 2026 Winter Olympics taking place across Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, in Italy.
She said: “I’m feeling pretty confident after my first race and finishing fifth and I enjoy sliding at different tracks so it’ll be nice to experience new tracks across Europe.
“I’m looking forward to going on ones that I might find more challenging.”