From surfing to skeleton for Aussie

Sunshine girl Emma Lincoln-Smith used to ride the waves in the Sydney suburb of Narabeen before her sporting career went cold - much colder.

Eurosport

When a letter from the Australian Institute of Sport arrived in 2004 inviting her to take part in a skeleton trial it did not take the daredevil teenager long to make up her mind.

"It said 'have you got what it takes to go 120km/h head first down a bobsleigh track?' - I just thought, get me on it," the 24-year-old former surf lifesaver told Reuters as she prepared for her first taste of Olympic competition.

In fact, while surfing and sliding down a mountain track on something resembling a tea tray might seem worlds apart, Lincoln-Smith says the two sports have much in common - not least the danger of ending the day black and blue.

"Sliding is very similar to surfing," she said after completing two 85mph runs down the Whistler track she happened to be inspecting last Friday when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili barrelled off Corner 16 and died.

"It needs the same body awareness as surfing. You have to let the sled go and not fear the curve. It's the same with surfing - you just can't force it," added the former competition surfer.

Lincoln-Smith's first experience of skeleton, in which athletes sprint before launching themselves head-first down a sheer ice chute, was when Australian coach Terry Holland hand-picked a group of atheltes to travel to Calgary in 2004.

"The first time we went down from less than halfway and it was crap... I thought it was going to be fast and scary," she said. "But then we went from the top and it was insane.

"I had some pretty nasty crashes that week but just kind of fell in love with the sport."

Lincoln-Smith, one of four Australians sliding in the skeleton at Whistler, used to compete in surf lifesaving where her speciality was 90m sprints through soft sand.

One method she devised to increase her lung capacity was running underwater carrying large rocks off Warriewood Beach - a bizarre routine that still serves her well.

"I didn't even notice until a few years after I'd started doing skeleton, that I hardly breathed the whole way down," she said. "It means my visor doesn't fog up and I can see where I'm going. It also means your chest isn't moving around."

Despite being away from the ocean spray six months a year she has no plans to ditch the sled for the surfboard just yet, especially after coming fifth in the 2009 World Championhips in Lake Placid - the best performance by an Australian.

Lincoln-Smith is well aware of the risks down the 1,400 metre Whistler track, knows that a wipe-out could be just around the next corner, but cannot wait to get started.

"It's tough, technical and really mental," she said. "But when you get it right it's enjoyable. Get it wrong and it's horrible... it can scare the crap out of you."

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