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My Quest for Glory on the Sled

By Kendall Wesenberg

My Quest for Glory on the Sled

How did I get into skeleton?

I grew up in Modesto, California as the oldest of three children. My family was always fairly active, up in the mountains skiing, or out at the lake waterskiing, inner tubing and wakeboarding. My siblings and I are all are pretty competitive, everyone played a couple of the same sports.

In my senior year of high school, I decided not to pursue NCAA soccer and I knew I wanted to get out of California and live somewhere different for a few years. I visited Boulder and I immediately fell in love with the campus and the town, I made my decision on the spot to go to the University of Colorado.

I played club soccer there, but I thought my athletic career would end upon graduation. However, during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I watched bobsled on TV and couldn’t believe how cool it was. “How in the world do people get into that,” I wondered. I remember the announcers saying the bobsledders came from other sports like volleyball and track and field, how did they make the switch? I literally googled “How do you get into bobsled?” and found the USA Bobsled and Skeleton homepage.

At the time I didn’t know what skeleton was, or why it was included with bobsled, so I watched it on YouTube and thought it looked like a lot of fun. When I told my brother and sister that I wanted to try it, they said there was no way I’d actually follow through. So, obviously I had to give it a shot.

The recruitment process was very informal. I found a coach’s email address on the Team USA website and sent a message asking how to try the sport. After a couple of emails, I was signed up for a combine.

That was during my junior year of college. I went out to the combine in Lake Placid that summer and signed up for a driving school for the following season. I loved the sport immediately, but I decided to finish my degree in Colorado before going after it full time. Once I graduated, I moved to Park City in the winter of 2012-13. While my friends moved to big cities and got “real” jobs, I picked up a couple of retail jobs in Park City while training at the track five nights a week. I continued that for two seasons until I got an invite to Team Trials (our U.S. team selection races) for the next season.

People often ask me if I’m afraid on the sled.

When you’re a rookie just starting out, they only take you halfway up the track. They hold your feet and tell you to get on and look where you want to go. Then they slowly move you higher and higher up the track. My first day from the top was a little nerve-wracking.

You get used to the fear kind of being a part of it, but with each new season the nerves always come back with the anticipation after taking five months off. There’s no half speed in our sport. Once you get on the sled you’re going, and you’re going full speed. You better know what turns are coming and what your steers are.

Any first day on a new track you always think “Man, I hope I know what I’m doing.” Before you’ve seen a track, all you can do is watch point-of-view video and look at the notes from teammates who’ve been there before. You just hope you have it dialed in and you know how to react if something goes wrong. I would say the only time I’m actually scared is after a crash when I have to go back to the top of that same track.

Beyond the fear, the intensity of the speed and g-forces of skeleton on a good run still has quite an effect on your body. I wore WHOOP on a few practice runs last fall and my heart rate was crazy high. Here’s one example of my data during a run in October:

I first discovered WHOOP last summer when I was in the Olympic training center and some other athletes were using it. I really liked the app interface and how they were able to wear it all the time. The band being waterproof makes it easy to leave on all the time and was even more helpful last offseason when I was recovering from hip surgery and doing a lot of rehab in the pool.

I love having the feedback from WHOOP on what my body is doing. You get your sleep recommendation every night, and as an athlete it’s really nice to have something to aim for. The Recovery aspect is huge as well. It gives you a better idea of when you can push a little harder in workouts. Having a number to base things off of is a big help. Obviously you listen to your body, but when your Recovery is high you know you’re fine and can really go for it.

We’re one of very few sports that has a true offseason. All of our tracks are in the northern hemisphere and none of them are iced in the summer, so we go 5-6 months with absolutely zero sliding. That’s the time everyone uses to recover and rehab injuries, as well as to build strength and speed to improve their starts.

During runs, we push the sled for the first 20+ meters. So in the offseason, we train sort of like super short distance sprinters. Each week I usually do three days of lifting and three days of sprinting, with some conditioning, core and rehab mixed in as well.

This offseason and upcoming season are obviously huge. 2018 is the Games in PyeongChang. In an Olympic sport, that is the end game. At the moment, my top priority is getting stronger and faster so my push is where it needs to be. That and getting my hip rehabbed and comfortable so I’m not fighting it all season.

This winter we’ll have team trials, a four-race series for three U.S. spots in the World Cup. After that, Team USA will have two spots for women’s skeleton the Olympics, Our third person, whoever that is by rank, will have a chance to earn a spot as well. All of that is the goal, to fight my way through the season and see where that puts me.

The dream is that surreal moment when you’re on the podium and everyone is listening to your national anthem.

Watch Kendall finish second at a World Cup race in Switzerland last season: