From skeleton to the corridors of power

Date posted: 27/12/17

 Adam Pengilly 


For a time at Turin 2006, Adam Pengilly led the Winter Olympics.

Hurtling down an icy track at 90mph - trying not to smack into the rock-solid wall - the pressure of being a Winter Olympian in the skeleton event is immense. Now though, as a retired athlete, there is a different type of pressure.

When the Winter Olympics start in PyeongChang in February, Adam will be far more than just an interested spectator.

Having competed for Team GB in the 2006 and 2010 Games, he is now making an impact off the track as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

Adam is one of 15 representatives on the IOC’s Athletes Commission, putting forward the views of sportspeople competing in the winter and summer Games. He joined the IOC at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and retired from competition in 2012.

Back Pages Magazine Winter 2018

This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Back Pages. To read the rest of the magazine, click here.

In this role, he has helped organise February’s Games in the Republic of Korea and, just as he did as an athlete, the 2009 world silver medallist is looking to represent Jesus in the world of sport’s governing bodies.

As well as his IOC position, Adam is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Athlete Committee and Vice President International Affairs of the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation. It all started with a small role representing his fellow British winter athletes in 2003, but what motivates him to stay involved?

“I like to improve things to be done well or better than they were at the time. I thought and still think that athletes could be more involved in decision making within sport and athletes’ interests could be taken into account more.”

“My whole life is impacted by my Christian faith. While I am far from perfect and get things wrong, I try and live my life as Jesus taught.”

Adam PengillyHis IOC role alone is certainly keeping Adam busy.

“I have been involved in the monitoring team for the PyeongChang Winter Games and did the same for the Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer 2016. I am also involved in evaluation for the 2022 Winter Games and the anti-doping piece, which is where my role with WADA came in.”

As an athlete, Adam looked to live out his faith among his fellow sliders - now it’s the officials he serves alongside.

“My whole life is impacted by my Christian faith. While I am far from perfect and get things wrong, I try and live my life as Jesus taught - to serve and follow Him.”

As an IOC member, Adam faces many big decisions, so how does he prepare?

“I will try and read as much as I can, so I have got as much information as I can; bearing in mind where that information has come from, and what that person or group’s agenda might be.

“Then I pray and ask for God’s help and His wisdom because numerous times I have thought ‘Lord, I don’t know what to do here, please help’.”

Adam has a great opportunity to witness for Jesus among his colleagues and the staff, but he says the political nature of the IOC also throws up many challenges.

“It’s a weird and wonderful mix of people, quite eclectic in some ways. You have got members of royal families, sporting greats and then you have people who don’t really have that much sporting history, but have great experience in other areas.

“Because there are often elections going on, it is hard to make deep friendships and establish trust. But when you are there, in some ways it’s like a family.”

Six years after retiring, Adam still fondly remembers his time competing, especially his Olympic debut at Turin 2006.

Adam Pengilly


“There was just so much to see and the atmosphere in the Olympic Village was just incredible. It was a place people had dreamed of, and wanted to be, most of their lives and now they had made it.

“There was a real euphoria, particularly around the opening ceremony and the early part of the Games.”

Skeleton involved four one-minute runs producing a cumulative time.

“It was about not making mistakes and being solid all the way down, rather than being exceptional. When I competed, I was always really nervous. It was about trying to control things. I did that by praying for safety for everybody and that I would perform well. Then I would go through my race routine.”

Adam was the first man to go in the skeleton at Turin.

“It was a real privilege and meant of course that I was leading the Olympics for a couple of minutes.”

He added: “Hurtling down a mountain at 90mph is just so much fun – as long as you don’t hit the wall too much. It is just a brilliant gift from God!”

To hear more from Adam, listen to and look out for a new interview with him in February.

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