Winter Olympics - SkeletonCourtesy of The United States Olympic Committee
Considered the world's first sliding sport, skeleton was started in the Swiss town of St. Moritz in the late 1800s. The first competition was held in 1884. Riders raced down the road from St. Moritz to Celerina, where the winner received a bottle of champagne. It wasn't until 1887 that riders began competing in the prone position used today. The sport received its name in 1892, when a new sled made mostly of metal was introduced. People thought it looked like a skeleton.
In 1923, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobagganing (FIBT) was founded. Three years later, bobsleigh and skeleton were declared Olympic sports.
Skeleton returns to the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City after a 54-year absence. The 2002 Games will mark skeleton's third Olympic appearance. Skeleton was contested in 1928 and 1948 Winter Games, both of which were held in St. Moritz, where skeleton was founded in the late 1800s. While only men's skeleton was contested in 1928 and 1948, men's and women's events will be on the program for Salt Lake.
Of the six medals awarded in the skeleton, the United States has won three of them. Brothers Jennison and John Heaton of the U.S. won the gold and silver medals, respectively, at the 1928 Games. Twenty years later, John Heaton repeated as silver medalist -- he was 19 when he won his first medal, 39 when he won his second. The 1948 Olympic champion was Nino Bibbia of Italy.
Men's skeleton is being held for the first time since the 1948 Games in St. Moritz. The only other time it was contested was in 1928, when the Winter Games also were held in St. Moritz. Skeleton started in the Swiss town in the 1880s. Women's skeleton is making its Olympic debut.