HURTLING down a frozen track at 80mph sounds, to most mere mortals, an utterly terrifying prospect. 

But from the very first time Kelsey Stewart tried her hand at skeleton, she loved it. 

The 24-year-old has long harboured an interest in this most daunting of winter sports despite excelling as a runner, which is perhaps a clue that her recent change of path was not as unexpected as it may have initially seemed. 

Stewart had, to this point at least, made her name as a 400m runner, winning numerous Scottish titles and representing Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. 

However, having spent much of her life on the athletics track, the sport was starting to lose its appeal somewhat for Stewart. 

So when she came across a recruitment campaign by the British skeleton team inviting newcomers into the sport, Stewart didn’t hesitate in applying. 

“Skeleton was a sport I was interested in and I’d always watched it and thought I quite fancy having a crack at that. I always thought it looked so much fun but the opportunity was just never there to do anything about it,” she says. 

“Then a friend of a friend sent me the advert about the recruitment campaign and said ‘I think you’d be nuts enough for this’.  

“I had a think about whether or not I really wanted to do this? And I thought yes, I do and so that was it, I went for it. 

“I was ready for a change from athletics. I wasn’t enjoying myself quite as much anymore and I needed a new challenge. I just needed that opportunity to come up.” 

Despite her enthusiasm, Stewart was not optimistic about her chances of making the final cut for the skeleton squad. 

Certainly, it was a thorough, and at times brutal, recruitment process, with far more than the candidates’ athletic ability assessed but despite this, Stewart made it through and secured her place in the six-strong squad of rookies.  

“I really didn’t think I’d get through,” she says. 

“Skeleton is one of those sports that you just don’t know how you’re going to take to. Just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it. 

“We had interviews which were very tough but I looked at it as a challenge.  

“I live for high pressure, I love that kind of thing but you could see a couple of the girls really struggled with that aspect of the process. 

“We were really getting grilled; they were asking me things like why didn’t I make it to a higher level in athletics and when you’re in that kind of intense environment, you can either run with it or you can crack and I’m generally pretty good in those kind of situations.” 

 On finding out she had made the cut, Stewart had only a matter of weeks to relocate from her home in Aberdeenshire to Bath and in August, began the tricky process of becoming an elite skeleton athlete. 

The past two months have, admits Stewart, presented some challenges but nevertheless, she has relished every minute. 

“I’m loving it, I live for the adrenaline rush you feel when you’re going so fast,” she says. 

“The training is pretty different from what I was used to in athletics, there’s a lot of work in the gym and I’m really noticing it pay off. 

“We’ve obviously all got a lot of technical work to do too. Then it’s about learning to put everything I do in training together. 

“I’m at the stage where I can make quite substantial improvements which is very exciting. 

“Not being good at certain things is hard though – I just keep reminding myself that I need to stay patient and it’ll come. 

“I think this is where my athletics background helps though – I’ve been in similar situations to this, I’ve been cut or not selected for things many times before and so having an understanding of the reality and the brutality of elite sport has been invaluable.” 

The next step in the process is a training camp in Lillihammer in Norway in the coming weeks, where Stewart and her fellow rookies will train on ice for the first time. 

On their return, the group will be culled by another three athletes and while making the final cut will be no easy task, Stewart is well aware that the strength of the group significantly increases the chances of success for those who do go the distance. 

Certainly, the past success of similar British skeleton programmes gives Stewart considerable grounds for optimism; two-time Olympic champion, Lizzy Yarnold, came through a similar process and went on to win gold at both the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Stewart has not ruled out entirely a return to athletics at some point but, for now anyway, has her sights firmly set on beginning competing in less than a year’s time followed by the 2026 Winter Olympics where, she is confident, Team GB skeleton racers will continue their medal-winning performances. 

“This is a really exciting group of girls so whoever gets kept on definitely has a chance of doing really well. Whoever makes it will very much be in the mix when we start competing,” she says. 

And it definitely helps having seen others go down this same path and being really successful. 

“I don’t know if I’d ever go back to athletics – I’m just taking each day as it comes and we’ll see what happens. This is the focus for now though.”