What Is Bobsledding Anyways?

Speed, snow and pounding hearts make bobsledding one of the most thrilling winter sports to take part in and watch. Professional bobsledding, also known as bobsleighing, requires athletes to get into a sled and race down an artificial or natural ice-covered incline. The bobsled carries two to four people at any one time.

Bobsledding was developed in the 1800s, in both upstate New York and the ski resorts of the Swiss Alps. The first organized bobsledding competition was held in 1898, on Cresta Run in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. That competition went on to earn a name for itself because it is where a unique style of bobsledding was showcased.


The method involved bobbing back and forth on the sled in order to increase the speed at which the sled flew down over the ice. In 1923, the sport became internationally recognized by the Organization of the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh. This then led to its inclusion in the Olympic Games in Chamonix, France, the following year. Since then bobsledding has been a permananet fixture at the Olympic Games.

Since the year 1931, both the four-person and the two-person sport were included in the annual bobsledding world championships. Women have been participating in this sport since its creation, which is one of the reasons why most people love it as it does not discriminate. The women’s two-person competition debuted in 2002.


The first woman to ever win the gold medal in Bobsledding was Vonetta Flowers and Jill Bakken of the USA. Flowers was also the first black athlete to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics for Bobsledding.

What Does The Bobsledding Run Look Like?

The bob run that is used in the international competition usually measures between 1,200 – 1,600 meters wide. The runs generally have around 15-20 turns each course, and this ranges in size due to the huge amount of hairpins that are more than 180 degrees. Most bobs are usually permanent foundations made of concrete or stone. These are then covered with several inches of ice.

The straightaways then have sidewalls that are reinforced further with ice that is usually about 46cms or 18 inches high. These large turns are usually banked on very steeply and can be built as high as 6 meters which is around 20 feet high. They may sometimes overhang a lip of the ice in order to prevent the fast traveling sleds from flying away.


Originally these sleds were built of wood, and steel runners were adopted a few years later. By the mid-20th century, aluminum and steel were the most used throughout. The four runners are usually mounted on pairs of two axles. The steering is then accomplished by turning the front axle with either ropes or wheels that are linked to the axle by use of cables. A toothed bar is used as a brake and it is usually pressed against the ice in between the rear runners.

How Does The Bobsledding Race Work?

Individual runs are usually done down the course and are known as “heats.” The crew is then required to push the sled up to 50 meters down the course before they can board. The pilot is however not required to steer. The grooves in the ice usually make the steering unnecessary until the sled has left the starting area. Now, poor form during the initial push can cause the team to lose heat, but this is never decisive. During the rest of the course, the sleigh’s speed usually depends on the runners, the weight of the sled, the skill of the pilot and the condition of the ice.

The race times are normally recorded in hundreds of seconds, and even the smallest of errors, especially in the beginning can grossly affect the heat and can have some negative impact on the final standings of the team in the race. Both the women and men standings during the races are usually calculated over an aggregate of two runs on each heat. During the Olympic Games and the World Championships, however, all competitions consist of four heats each.

In Bobsledding races, therefore, the start of the race is usually extremely crucial to the team’s success. The riders normally wear cleated shoes, and they run alongside the sled, pushing it in order to achieve maximum velocity. As the sled builds speed, the riders normally jump in and the pilot or driver at the front and the brakeman push the back of the sled.

If the sled is very heavy, it will attain a speed of almost 160km per hour. The smaller sleds are usually slower.

Image Source: en.wikipia.org

What Is Bobsledding Conclusion

This is an extremely popular sport in the US, and this is due in part to the fact that the American sportsmen have designed sleeker versions of the sleds which makes them easier to use and more fun. The game was especially popular during the 20th century. Other countries such as Germany also enjoy this incredible sport, and you should look out for the sport during the Winter Olympics for some fun times.

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