The 2022 Winter Olympics are still more than two years away. Despite this, athletes are already training to be in top shape for Beijing. Among them is Australian skeleton racer Elliot Brown. Despite his country lacking proper training facilities, he’s preparing to win big. His secret, like a growing number of athletes, is virtual reality.
A frozen fish out of water
Elliot Brown found himself among a very small group of Australian athletes hoping to qualify for a spot in the 2020 Winter Olympic Games. Skeleton racing is nearly unheard of there, and one of Brown’s first experiences came in Latvia. Rather than travel to Europe repeatedly in order to train, Brown worked with the University of the Sunshine Coast to create a solution. A video recording played through a VR headset allows him to simulate skeleton racing nearly anywhere. It comes without the risk of injury — or worse.
According to ABC News Australia, a team at USC are hoping to have a full skeleton VR training app developed this year. With chances of an Australian qualifying for Beijing otherwise looking slim, the technology could be just what Brown needs to get the edge on his competition.
We’ve previously seen luge replicated in virtual reality, most notably in PlayStation VR Worlds. The launch game for Sony’s headset focused on street luge, with the player needing to avoid traffic and other obstacles in order to survive. Luckily, those factors don’t play a role in Olympic-level skeleton racing.
But skeleton is one of the most dangerous sports in the world, with athletes racing down tracks and lightning speed. In 2001, a Latvian rider was killed after an empty sled moved into his path during a practice run. Real-world practice would obviously still be necessary if VR technology were implemented more frequently. However, it could potentially cut down on accidents like this.