Published: 17. February 2015, on 07:06  a.m. source: www.postimees.ee

The Estonian bobsleigh team assembled last year is looking forward to the first official competition. The kick-off will take place already this Sunday in the legendary Swiss ski resort St. Moritz where two Estonian twin bobsleds will be racing down the mountain.

The Estonian received the bobsleigher’s licence issued by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) in the camp taken place in Igls, Austria, at the beginning of November last year. Thereafter the team has been training and now the first serious test will be waiting ahead. Carl-Robert Puhm and Indrek Hopfeldt form one team and Hardi Link and Gert Heinala another team in Switzerland. The pilots are Puhm and Link and the pushers Hopfeldt and Heinala respectively.

The pushers have main mainly been training in Estonia pursuant to the camp taken place in Austria and the physical side has mainly been developed. The pilots of bobsleds also visited La Plagne in France at the end of January for improving their skills.

“I experienced a lot in the camp, as the track in France differed considerably from the one in Austria. The track was considerably longer and the curves were materially different. The track in France consisted mainly of long back curves where the sleigh proceeded on so-called wall and where greater force than experienced in Igls could be felt, “Puhm described the camp taken place in France in January.

“These two tracks (Igls and La Plange) were like a night and day,” Link added. “The track of Igls is one of the easiest and therefore FIBT organizes the training for the new bobsleighers there for getting the first experience. We also took advantage of this opportunity and took the track of La Plagne as the next step which was longer and more complicated. The curves were longer and the distances between the curves were shorter i.e. the pilot has less time to prepare for the next curve. The camp in La Plagne was successful full of real sleighing experience for the whole team.“

The circumstances for Link personally could have been better in France: “The camp in La Plagne was a failure for me, as I fell ill right on the first day and could not attend the trainings on other days. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia when I returned to Estonia and it took one week for its treatment, but now I am getting back fit“.

The new competition element with minor admissions was practised in France which should be now further improved in St. Moritz. “In addition to six sleighs on bobsleigh track we spent only three days on the track and we also tried jumping to the sledge for the first time. True, this was on the even ground in the place specially meant for that purpose where the surface was not ice, but rather the cover common on the track and field arenas. Thus the start of competitions in St Moritz was a real challenge,“ Puhm stated.

Although the kick-off is on 22 February, the bobsleighers start their trip to their first competition early in the morning on Wednesday to properly review the conditions and find the best racing trajectory for oneself.

The challenge is great for Estonians regarding their first competition. The track in St. Moritz having hosted the Olympic Games of 1928 and 1948 is the world’s oldest (built in 1903) and the only one in the world which has been naturally built/frozen. The Estonians can experience also higher speeds than before in the ice chute with the length of 1722 m and 14 nominal curves. “After arrival the athletes can review the track. These are complicated conditions which need to get used to,“ Mauro Serra, team manager, told.

According to the members of the Estonian bobsleigh team the final list of the competitors starting off in St. Moritz is not yet clear. The Swiss twin bobsled for women could be pointed out as the first rivals. Although different competitions for the teams at different levels are held on this legendary track, the Estonians make their debut at the competition named Gunter Sachs Memorial.

“The competition of St. Moritz is our first test and no aims will be set. The sleighing experience and cognition are to be acquired as much as possible. Our project progresses nicely,” Link is optimistic and also disclosed further action plans. “In summer we plan to go to the camp of physical preparation in Monaco and in autumn the six-week training camp is ahead to improve before the European Cup.“