Kimberley Forest from the lowland is the rising star of the ice channel

With the chin just above the ice and with a speed of sometimes more than 120 kilometers, Kimberley Bos races to the finish on the skeleton track of Winterberg.Statue Klaas Jan van der Weij / de Volkskrant

Moss snow shrouds the dark wooded hills around Winterberg in a gray shroud when Kimberley Bos (28) appears and glances at the first few meters of the bobsleigh track. Her entrance breaks through the largely gray tones: the sled under her arm has an orange print, which includes images of the Dutch lion, her camper and the pattern of a stroopwafel.

But another color really illustrates her newfound status in the skeleton, the discipline in which competitors whiz head-first down a plateau, at speeds exceeding 120 kilometers per hour, their chins a hand’s width above the ice. When Bos takes off her quilted jacket, a yellow vest appears: the Edese has been the leader in the World Cup standings for several weeks. A first copy hangs in the living room of the parental home, bearing the signatures of its competitors.

She slaps her thighs once, bends over, grabs the handle of the slide next to her and begins a controlled-looking sprint. When full speed is reached, she dives on top of the sled and hastily folds her arms straight along her body. Be careful that she does not inadvertently make a ‘chicken wing’ when steering; a bent arm will cost you hundredths of a second.

Her main opponents on the track, where the public is not welcome, start after her: Janine Flock, Tina Hermann, Elena Nikitina. After just a minute, these are the times of the first heat: Bos is the fastest: with 57.88 she remains well ahead of Jacqueline Lolling (58.37) and Julia Kanakina (58.40). Almost half a second ahead is a street length in this sport. The others are even further behind.

Medal Candidate

This leads to the remarkable observation that the rising star in the ice channel now comes from lowlands instead of alpine regions. With such results, earlier speculations are gaining substance: Bos is at least a medal candidate at the Olympic Games in Beijing in February. It is not without reason that the head of a predator is still on the print under her sled: 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. She tempers expectations herself. “It’s just very close all season.”

She also won a world cup here in December. No Dutch person has ever done that to her. Then she even smashed the record at the Eisarena: 56.70. She thinks it’s a ‘nice and precise job.’ “It’s not that hard to get down. You have to make very small steering movements. If you do just a little too much or just a little too little, it immediately takes time. I like racing where the details count.’

Things aren’t going so well all of a sudden. After a period of trouble with an injury to the thigh, she finished on the podium in five of the eight races in the World Cup last season and took third place in the final standings. ‘It is building on what I have shown before. It is mainly more experience. In Altenberg, a difficult track, I struggled to get down, now I can just keep up with the top 10. The start is also better, I’ve never been so fast.’

Kimberly Bos during her second run of the World Cup in Winterberg.  Thanks to her perfect first race, she won the race in Germany on Friday.  Statue Klaas Jan van der Weij / de Volkskrant

Kimberly Bos during her second run of the World Cup in Winterberg. Thanks to her perfect first race, she won the race in Germany on Friday.Statue Klaas Jan van der Weij / de Volkskrant

She attributes it to summer workouts. With a cart on wheels she trotted along concrete edges on athletics tracks in Papendal and in Ede. Hours in the weight room sharpened the explosiveness even further.

fast sled

Another work in progress: the material. Under the direction of coach Kristan Bromley, four-time world champion nicknamed Mr. Ice, a faster sled is being tinkered with. Bos does not reveal more than ‘more efficient runners’ (the runners) and ‘better aerodynamics’. She even had to sign a confidentiality agreement, the competition is watching. Isn’t she also curious about other people’s innovations? ‘No actually not. We simply don’t have the resources to counterfeit anything. We do our own thing.’

The difference with four or five years ago is already big. At the time, she traveled off the roads with colleague Joska Le Conté in a van and they only occasionally made use of a coach. “We just went down and tried to light up as much as we could during the run. Now there is Kristan as head of the program, Joska is my coach on the track and there is always a physio with it, that matters a lot. We have really made strides.’

With the support of NOCNSF, the Bob en Slee Bond Nederland and some sponsors, she didn’t have to worry about her income at the start of a season. ‘I’ve never had that luxury before. I’m very satisfied like that. Of course I see that the budgets of other teams are bigger, but for now the results show that something like that doesn’t make a difference.’

Meanwhile, the dusk settles over the valley with the track, the ice glistening in the light of bright spotlights. Bos starts as the last of the participants in the second run. She clocked 5.44 on the start, a tenth slower than in the previous slide.

Her success attracts attention. ‘Competitors are watching you during training. You are being watched, everything you do is under scrutiny. That takes some getting used to.’ She suddenly receives fan mail from Germany, strangers approach her. She takes it as a given. ‘I don’t like the spotlight very much. I exercise because I like my sport. I don’t exercise to get attention.’

She does not know whether there is also more interest among sponsors. ‘I’m not working on it. I just don’t have time for it. I do know that the ones I have are very happy with the results. There are those who have supported me for years. I am very grateful to them for that.’

The corona ghost

In Winterberg it is not only important to pay attention to the raised edges of the track, it is also important to stay away from corona. A physiotherapist rushed to the Sauerland after the permanent member of Bos’ team tested positive during the previous World Cup competition in Latvia and was left in quarantine. Several infections among athletes and supervisors have also been identified in Winterberg. Some teams decide not to leave for Sankt Moritz as a precaution, where the European Championships and the conclusion of the World Cup are scheduled for next weekend. Bos: ‘It’s very scary. We don’t know where it comes from. You keep wondering who is next. It’s something elusive.’

She crossed the finish line at Winterberg in 58.16, the ninth time, but enough for her second victory in the World Cup. Her analysis: ‘The first run was almost perfect. The second was a lot less. If you want to go fast, you have to relax on your sled, that’s one of my strong points. I wanted something too much, I was just a little too enthusiastic. It was a good lesson for China. You’ll need four very consistent runs there.’

She was in Yanqing, a two-hour drive northwest of Beijing, in October. ‘A bit tricky, fairly technical, not very dangerous, with an average speed of 124 km/h. There are many high bends, in two you are almost against the roof, it is that tight. The rhythm is special. Left right, left right, left right, left right and then suddenly four times in a row right, followed by four times left.’ She predicts minor differences. According to her, the fact that the women on the sled do not differ much from each other is apparent from the podium finish of the World Cups: in seven races there were four winners.

At the finish in the Veltins-Eisarena she is again on the highest step, with the red-white-blue around her shoulders. It was her parents who had reminded her to put the flag in the bag just in case. “I almost forgot myself.” Another lesson learned: with a star status comes rituals.

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