Adrenaline-fuelled Marcus Wyatt describes hurtling headfirst down an ice run on a thin metal sled as “breath-taking”.
With his keen interest in motorsports and skiing, it’s perhaps not surprising that he’s making a name for himself in the high-risk winter pursuit of skeleton.
“It’s like being inches from the ice on a rollercoaster that sends you into hard walls at 70mph,” said the 23 year-old.
“The first ever run I did was just a blur of speed, adrenaline, ice, hitting walls, concentration, G-force, fear and many more emotions and feelings that were just too much to comprehend at the time.”
The Devon-born athlete is in the midst of his first full winter season, after being first selected to train with Team GB in December 2014.
British skeleton has enjoyed great success since its formation in 1989, winning four Olympic medals, including golds for Amy Williams and Lizzy Yarnold.
Wyatt and the his fellow Team GB competitors are based at Bath University, which the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BSSA) opted to make the team’s permanent home in 2011.
His main motive for getting into skeleton was the chance to represent his country, and his sights and ambitions are rising higher all the time.
“The chance to go to the Olympics and win gold motivated me more than anything and still does”
“I’d seen skeleton at the Olympics before and was also drawn to the fact that it involved a lot of speed and risk, so that also made it a sport I wanted to try,” he told me. “I’m also someone who is driven by the desire to win.”
That desire proved vital when the selection processes began, and continues to fuel his ongoing hunger for Olympic success.
“During the selection phases, it was made clear that they were not just taking athletes on to be good, they wanted athletes who had the potential to win Olympic gold,” said Wyatt.
“The chance to go to the Olympics and win gold motivated me more than anything and still does.”
For Wyatt, the beauty of skeleton lies in its dangers. However, as well as providing the thrill factor, there is the obvious threat of things going badly wrong.
“When it starts to go wrong and you are fighting to correct what could turn into a big crash, the adrenaline rush comes back as you know you are possibly over the edge,” he explained.
Motorsport is one of the few sports which can rival skeleton in terms of ever-present danger, and where timing is so important. One of the world’s most infamous tracks is in Germany, at Nurburgring – and not far away lies skeleton’s own equivalent.
“The track I’m currently at – Konigssee – is notoriously difficult and has a 360-degree corner where the difference between flipping and crashing and a fast line could be a few inches or the timing of a steer to the 10th or 100th of a second,” said Wyatt.
As with any sport, the harder you work, the bigger the potential rewards, and Wyatt is making plenty of sacrifices in order to pursue his dreams.
“Training is tough,” he said. “Often when away, we will have 12-plus hour days, six days a week – you have to push yourself every day as you know everyone else in the world is doing the same. I like to think that if I outwork everyone in the sport that day, then slowly I am catching them up.
“We have great coaches that definitely give us an edge, but it is up to us to act on what they say and actually do it. If you aren’t fully invested in the sport, then you will never make it to the top.
“The actual gym training itself is very hard and tiring on top of the other training sessions we do each day. The mindset I have now is not ‘should I go to the gym today?’ I just wake up and go to the gym.”
Although Wyatt is developing his skeleton skills, he is still very much a newcomer to the sport, so is picking his events carefully to ensure he gains the most valuable experience.
“This season started in October and finishes in mid-March after our first-ever race in Lake Placid, USA, as a warm-up to hopefully competing in the eight-race Europa Cup circuit next winter season, starting in October.”
The BSSA boast some of the best coaches in the sport, with results consistently improving over the last 10 years. Wyatt says he is thrilled to be part of the British skeleton programme.
“Representing GB is a huge honour and something I take very seriously, I now realise that it’s not enough”
“As of May I will have to be living in Bath so that I can train there full-time. To keep working my way up will be long and difficult as GB has a lot of talented and more experienced athletes who’ve been on the programme longer than I have, and who have the same goals – and that’s before you count the rest of the world where some athletes my age have already been sliding for 10 years.
“It’ll be tough and testing but I’m willing to give it everything I’ve got.”
Having achieved his initial aim of representing his country, Wyatt’s main goal is the ultimate – appearing at the Olympics.
“Although [representing GB] is still a huge honour and something I take very seriously, I now realise that it’s not enough,” he said.
“My main aim is to win gold in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. World Championships would also be a big aim as well as overall World Cup champion – but the main one is the Olympics.”