Commander Ed Rolls, Chair Luge

Olympic Luge

Luge Inter Services Report 2023/24 – St Moritz                    Cdr Ed Rolls RN

Do all heroes wear capes? Not necessarily, but a great many of them wear skintight lycra and can be found on a luge sled…


This years’ season culminated at the Inter Services, held at the end of February in St Moritz, Switzerland – a natural (rather than an artificial, refrigerated) track. At 1,722 meters long, the track starts in St Moritz (a healthy 1,822m above sea level) and ends at the bottom of the hill in Celerina. For pretty much all athletes, this was their first exposure to sliding au naturel, and as you can well imagine the weather plays a far greater role in track conditions than our athletes have previously been used to. All were understandably nervous about racing at St Moritz given its heritage and that it is not traditionally set up for luge, but everyone found it to be a fantastic experience and incredibly well run; the staff in particular were superb.

Team Army arrived having had an interesting season, with many of their experienced athletes out of play and unable to compete at this competition. Following on from a novice camp earlier in the year at Igls, Austria, they fielded a team of largely new sliders, full of enthusiasm, promise, and keen to progress with the sport. The Royal Navy arrived (relatively) mob-handed, with a good mix of seasoned and novice sliders, having used the new RN start ramp and ab initio training to great effect over the previous year, and in their words, ‘full of anticipation, hope, and a steely focus.’ The RAF also arrived with a mixture of experienced and novice sliders, all ready to take on this Swiss challenge.

As a natural track, the ice was beautifully smooth. All sliders rapidly found themselves progressing upwards as they became more comfortable, moving through the legendary corners of Devils’ Dyke, Horseshoe and Monti’s Bolt. Technique was key – the race to find speed straight off the starting ramp began; the gains made on start at St Moritz could well win or lose a race. Finger spikes were added to the gloves of some of the braver sliders, in some cases for the first time. Those who had no spikes worked hard on their pull starts, to squeeze every millisecond out of their run times. There were mercifully few crashes, and confidence was high.


However, as the days passed and racing week dawned, the weather warmed and the ice began to melt. As mentioned earlier, as an unrefrigerated track, any changes to outside air temperature can have a profound effect. On race week, Monday’s sliding was cancelled, and suddenly there was a risk that much of the rest of the week would also be missed. The decision was made – single services ran their individual championships on the Tuesday, with times recorded just in case the weather stayed warm for the duration of the Inters.

With the weather remaining uncertain, and alongside a need for the Bobsleigh and Skeleton teams to conduct their championships, Wednesday only allowed one final lauf per athlete before the decision to hold the Inter Services on one (and not over two) days – Thursday would be it. Final training runs were a nervy affair, the focus firmly on getting a final good slide in before competing the following day.


An overcast morning heralded the arrival of race day, and thankfully allowed for conditions just good enough to slide. The Inter Services began in earnest, with a cross-service random order set for the first run. Teams of 5 were nominated, with the fastest 4 athletes across both runs being counted. As is customary after the first run, the order was changed to slowest first, finishing with the fastest.


The vastly greater experience of the RAF showed its worth, and they took first place. In fact, they had their best season ever, taking home 3rd place in the Womens’ Race and placing 1 through to 5 in the Mens’, giving a total of 8 RAF in the top 10!  However, in a season of firsts, and for the first time ever in the history of the Inters, the Royal Navy team claimed second place, whilst the Army took home third.


The results were as follows:


Womens’ Champs:

1st – Maj Lucy Wyall (Army)

2nd – AB Kaliska Clarke (RN)

3rd – Cpl Alisa Dermidy (RAF)


Mens’ Champs:

1st – Sgt JP Kibble (RAF)

2nd – Cpl Henry Parkin (RAF)

3rd – Flt Lt Scott Steele (RAF)


Team Champs:

1st – RAF

2nd – RN

3rd – Army

As is often the case with these things, once the competition was completed the weather turned: nearly two feet of snow overnight made and sliding over the weekend impossible, and the track was closed – impacting the much anticipated International Concourse of Elegance car event too. Transport back out of the Alps was even threatened at one point, but happily all returned to the UK safely (albeit with a few RAF speeding tickets!)


Overall a truly special inter-services in a special location. Hurtling down a winding, icy track at 110kph+ on a small, unprotected sled requires skill, strength, resilience, teamwork, a healthy respect for the inherent dangers of the sport and above all, courage. With Olympic Luge consisting of such a small cohort, it was fantastic to see how well all three services worked together for the benefit of the sport and all athletes alike.

2023 – A Season Recap:

(Cdr Ed Rolls has been on Advanced Command and Staff Course for the entirety of this season; many of the words are courtesy of Lt Dan Wrigglesworth RN for which he has my thanks.)


This year’s Luge season started in January at the location of last year’s competition, Igls, Austria. As is tradition, it took the form of two one-week novice camps, hosted by the Army and with the Royal Nay taking part, while the RAF ran their own events. As has been mentioned several times by our novice Lugers, Igls is a great track to learn on, and despite having the potential to bite, it has several starting points available that slowly build on difficulty and speed, allowing the chance to progress at an even pace, giving the slider plenty of opportunity to learn the nuances of luge sled control.

Following on from the novice camp, it was time for the Single Service and Inter-Service Championships, this season held in Lillehammer, Norway.  Athletes travelled from across the globe to be able to participate, and thankfully most airport arrivals were timed nicely to get everyone to the track in good time. Following a brief period of acclimatisation and track walking, training began in earnest. As was mentioned in last year’s report, the skill-fade from several seasons away from sliding has meant that for many, this was a challenging and slightly bruising re-introduction to the discipline!

All three Services fielded strong teams of sliders, expertly tutored (as ever) by the ex-Olympian civilian coach, Mike Howard.  There was time to walk down to each section of the track, analysing the strengths and weaknesses from the day before and looking at the optimum lines in and out of the corners, hopefully identifying steering points – although this is tricky at 60mph. There was definitely some nervous excitement from the athletes prior to training, but once started, the nerves turned to steely determination to keep improving.

With training runs out of the way, the Inter Service Ice Championships were held on the final Friday of the fortnight. As race day arrived, morale amongst the teams was high, with plenty of inter-service rivalry. The format this year was to field a team of five sliders, with the top four times to count towards the grand total. Unfortunately, the RN champ crashed out on his first run and was unable to regain control of his sled, but all sliders, regardless of service, rallied together and completed their runs, with some spectacular regains from near bail-out scenarios.  The vast experience of both the Army and RAF teams came to the fore, with the final results:

RAF – gold,

Army – silver,

RN – bronze.

Individual Men

1st Sgt John-Paul Kibble. RAF

2nd Cpl Steve Webb. Army

3rd Flt Lt Scott Steele RAF

Individual Women

1st Sgt Dani Scott Army

2nd AB Kaliska Clarke RN

3rd AS1(T) Alisa Dermidy RA

This has proved to be a successful and rejuvenating year. For all three services, there have been changes of faces, key roles, and perhaps most importantly, a healthy crop of new sliders coming through, all of whom have big plans for the new season.  The Army and RAF already have mature training organisations, and the good news is that for the first time, there are plans for an RN grassroots camp in the summer, with their own novice camp towards the end of the year. With fair seas and a following wind, there is also the intention to hold next season’s Inter Services at St Moritz – a track that very few of the sliders from any of the services have been to before. This should be a great leveller, and I look forward to reporting back to you with the results next year.


This season was a welcome return to sliding after a few fallow years of lockdowns and grudging disappointment. But as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and while there was not the chance to compete last year, there was at least an opportunity to check, maintain and even acquire some new equipment. Since 2020, the Army have relocated their store from Ilford to its new (and hopefully permanent) home in Bicester, and excitingly the Navy have managed to fund, design and construct a practice start ramp for the use of all three services. Previously, there have been no UK-based training facilities for ramp starts for Luge: this has meant that training for those in the UK has been difficult, and often has relied on just two weeks’ worth of novice Ice Camps and maybe, deployments permitting, an occasional week ahead of the Inter Services Competitions.

The creation of this ramp at Glasgow Caledonian University will enable Grassroots sports events and summer training camps to be able to recruit more athletes and develop existing members’ starting skills and sled handling. These summer camps will be tri-Service events, and will allow teams to share coaching experience and to build on a base level of knowledge in general sled work. It will also improve Luge-specific physical strength and conditioning to benefit all athletes all year round. Currently, the UK Armed Forces are the only recognised pathway into GB representation so, by increasing numbers involved and promoting the sport throughout the year, the plan is to create better opportunities to increase the number of athletes in the GB programme in the future. This project has been a labour of love, and I must give my thanks and single out the hard work and leadership of Lt Cdr Emma Miles for bringing the ramp to fruition.

In terms of sliding activity, the Army had planned a full but condensed season consisting of around four weeks’ worth of sliding, but between Austrian lockdowns and travel restrictions they fell by the wayside, one-by-one. Similarly for the Royal Navy, their planned attendance at some of the Army events also fell through, and the RAF managed a fraction more success and time on the ice with a week’s novice camp in La Plagne, France. Happily, in the end we were able to hold a Combined Services’ Festival of Ice in Igls, Austria – and given the skill fade over the last two years, this was deliberately designed not to be an Inter-Services Ice Champs, but to manage a more measured and constructive rehabilitation into the wonderful world of Olympic Luge.

Across all three services, teams decided to invite predominately novices to the event to build for the future, and this gave the opportunity to introduce new athletes to the sport. At Igls, sliders commenced training from Kurve 10, gradually moving up to Kinderstart and then on to Jugendstart as the fortnight progressed, with some even making it to the Ladies’ Start. Nevertheless, some spent most of their laufs seemingly trying to find out what every bit of wall on the track felt like without a sled! Happily though it was an injury free event, with some notable performances.

It was also the largest Royal Navy turnout in many years, including three Reservists and four female sliders. Having an adapted event at the end of the Festival introduced elements of competitive spirit, but without the pressure of a full-blown Inter Services final: no team trophies were awarded this season. That said, in the Novice event (not a competition!), the Royal Navy’s novice sliders finished 1st and 2nd, with the RAF in 3rd. For the Senior event, Sgt Dani Scott comfortably threw down a couple of laufs that the rest of the sliders never stood a chance against. The Army finished 1st and 2nd, with RAF in 3rd. It was great to see that all the teams were very enthusiastic and put in strong performances all round.

It was perhaps not the full season we had all hoped for, but it was a significant achievement to have built the start ramp for use in earnest this summer, and to be able to run the Festival. The best was made of what we had, and all were glad just to be back on the ice trying to remember how to Luge. And all while having an awesome time too!