Nearing the end of his 10th season on the skeleton World Cup circuit, New Zealand's Ben Sandford has learned not to get too carried away with the highs, nor too down during the troughs the sport can throw at him.

Which is why he is fairly understated about his silver-medal winning performance in St Moritz two weeks ago.

Sandford picked up just his second podium finish in 10 years in Switzerland last month, adding to a bronze he secured at the same venue last year.

But the 32-year-old from Rotorua has stopped short of calling it a break-through result. Rather he believes it is proof that when he can master all the elements he has the ability to compete with the superstar sliders.


"It's not so much of a breakthrough, I've had a few results in the top six and then made the podium last year, but it's good to know that when I slide well and race well I can still be right up there," said Sandford.

He aims to be right up there again in the two season-ending events in Canada this month - the first beginning in Whistler this weekend.

The season will then wrap up with the world championships in Lake Placid, US, later this month.

Despite having enjoyed podium success only at the natural ice track in St Moritz, considered to be the home of the sport, Sandford believes he can still compete on the man-made concrete structures that they encounter elsewhere in the world on the skeleton and bob sled circuit.

He does not have the explosive speed at the start as some of his rivals, but he makes that time back through his technical skill on the track.

"My strength is when I'm in the sled. We spend a lot of time looking at the ice on the track and seeing how we can get the fastest line on the track and making sure you're steering as little as possible," said Sandford.

It is not surprising he is a natural on the sled.

His uncle Bruce Sandford was a pioneer in the sport of skeleton, winning a world championship in 1992 before the sport's re-inclusion in the Winter Olympic programme. Bruce Sandford played a big role in his nephew's taking up the sport.


"Once I finished university I went to visit him and told him I'd like to try skeleton and he wrote me a top secret manual and handed me the family skeleton helmet and sent me on my way," he laughed.

Although he was armed with gems of information from Bruce's long and successful career, it wasn't until Sandford went to skeleton school that he discovered he had an aptitude for the sport.

Hurtling face first at speeds of up to 150km/hour down an ice track is not for everyone, but Sandford found the experience exhilarating.

" Because it is such a unique feeling you find out pretty quickly whether you are going to like it or not," he said.

Four years later Sandford finished 10th at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, joining an elite club of five New Zealanders that have finished in the top 10 in a Winter Games.

Disappointment with his 11th place finish in Vancouver in 2010, was part of the motivation behind his decision to carry on to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.