News Banner 1

SAIT Polytechnic’s skeleton sleds head to Sochi

Congratulations to John Fairbairn and Eric Neilson for placing seventh and 13th in skeleton at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

We're proud to have been a part of your journey!

Find the full results

Calgary, AB — Two of Canada's athletes competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, will be racing towards the podium on skeleton sleds designed and built at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary.

John Fairbairn and Eric Neilson, ranked 5th and 12th in the world respectively, have been working closely with SAIT researchers and students to ensure their sleds are in top condition heading into the games.

Left to right, Dave Greszczyszyn, Eric Neilson and John Fairbairn The skeleton project began as an Own the Podium — Top Secret Project in 2008 when Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton partnered with the post-secondary to begin research and development on the sleds. Since then, the sleds have been fine-tuned into equipment that can compete on the international stage.

In 2012/13, Neilson became the first Canadian athlete to compete on the World Cup circuit on a SAIT-made sled, finishing fourth in the 2013 World Skeleton Championships. This season, Neilson was joined by Fairbairn, who rode his SAIT sled to a bronze medal at St. Moritz, Switzerland in mid-January.

"The SAIT team involved has celebrated significant milestones throughout the design and development process and now we're seeing the results on the track, which is extremely rewarding," says Dr. Alex Zahavich, Director of Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) at SAIT Polytechnic. "The Olympics was always a goal, and a gold medal there — that's the end goal."

Learn more about SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation ServicesSAIT — recently named the Top Research College in Canada — has spent a significant amount of time customizing the sleds for Neilson and Fairbairn as well as other competitive and developmental athletes to ensure they are the perfect fit. Using 3D scans of both the athlete and the sled, researchers have been able to form-fit the sleds to each athlete's body.

Eric Neilson has been part of the skeleton project since the beginning and says his sled has evolved significantly over the years.

"The first sled was very basic — kind of a rookie sled — and every year we've made changes to make a world-class sled that can compete with everyone else," says Neilson. "It's great to have a 100 per cent Canadian product.

"We're racing for Canada, so why not ride a Canadian sled?" adds Neilson.

The men's skeleton races take place on Feb. 14 and 15 in Sochi.

The skeleton project falls under the umbrella of the Sports and Wellness Engineering Technology Institute (SWETI) within the applied research department at SAIT Polytechnic. SWETI is supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

A timeline: SAIT's Road to Sochi 

2008 — Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton and SAIT's applied research department team up to focus on research and development of skeleton sleds for Canadian athletes.

2012 — Eric Neilson races on the World Cup circuit on a SAIT-made sled.
2013 — Eric Neilson and John Fairbairn race on the World Cup circuit using SAIT-made sleds.
2014 — Eric Neilson and John Fairbairn race in Sochi on SAIT-made sleds.

Tips for watching the Olympic skeleton races.

About SAIT

SAIT is one of Canada's most exciting destinations for post-secondary education, offering more than 100 career programs and over 1,000 part-time courses (including online and distance) that position people for success in technology, trades and business. A leader in innovation, SAIT also collaborates with industry on applied research and delivers corporate training worldwide. In 2013, SAIT was named one of Alberta's Top 60 Employers, the Top Research College in Canada and the Best Alberta Workplace for Training and Development. 

Return to News Releases