Unlikely Spanish skeleton star started out on cheese graters
Sandpaper, spikes and parmesan pummelling pumps – the key materials to the start of Ander Mirambell's skeleton career.
Ander Mirambell may not be the 'Big Cheese' of skeleton, but his Winter Olympics story is one of determination, hard work and a truly brilliant piece of ingenuity.
The former track and field athlete initially wanted to try his hand at bobsleigh, but was unable to fund the costs and so turned his attentions to another sliding sport at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF).
Mirambell put €400 towards renting a sled and buying a helmet, only to struggle sourcing the specialised shoes required for the push off.
It was at this point that the Spaniard harnessed his creative skills, using his old running spikes, some sandpaper and – most brilliantly of all – cheese graters to come up with his own prototype.
Explaining his cobbled-together footwear, he said: "One day when I went to buy some stuff from the shop I saw the cheese graters and thought, 'okay, why don't I put the cheese graters on the front of my old spikes, add some sandpaper for the heels and it looks like what I saw on the internet?'."
Mirambell, who has competed at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, found his invention came under severe scrutiny at the IBSF.
"There was a 70-year-old Austrian man checking the material, with a big white beard like the grandfather from the movie Heidi," he added.
"He checked the sled I rented; it was a s*** sled and the bolts were falling down, but it was my first time so I didn't care.
"The helmet was quite good so he was happy, and then I showed him the shoes. The guy was really shocked and said, 'wow, what is this? Do you want to prepare the parmesan for dinner or what?'"
But, having been handed a pair of second-hand shoes in which to train, all was not lost for Mirambell's invention.
He explained: "Emilio Strapasson, who is now the president of the Brazilian bobsleigh and skeleton federation, said to me, 'Ander, don't destroy the shoes. With the cheese graters we can make some ice for the caipirinhas' [a Brazilian cocktail]."