Bobsleigh, otherwise known as Bobsled is a team based winter sport event. Either two or four people make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. In a competition there are several timed runs for each team. These timed runs are combined to calculate the final score. It’s interesting that the various sled types were invented even before the first Bobsleigh track was created. Most of them were adapted from luge/skeleton sleds and were created to carry passengers. However, with time, competitions with those sleds emerged.
The sport became a part of the Winter Olympics in 1924. This was just 20 years after the sport actually appeared but it’s popularity was very high. All competitions and tournaments are governed by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF). However, there are national federations that control the national events in countries where this sport is very popular, like the USA and Canada. To learn more about the sport, check the IBSF’s official website.
History of Bobsleigh
Sledding on ice has been a popular activity in Northern countries for thousands of years. However, the origins of Bobsleigh as a sport are very recent. It appeared, the same way luge and skeleton did, thanks to Caspar Badrutt. He was the owner of a hotel and spa in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It was a place for rich people who were going there in summer months. Caspar wanted his high-end English clientele to visit in the winter months as well. He managed to convince some of them to remain in his hotel during the winter. He was keeping them entertained with a lot of activities (similar to bobsleigh) thus establishing the concept of winter resorting.
It didn’t take long before the place became a favorite for people from Victorian Britain. In the early 1870s some adventurous English guests began adapting boys’ delivery sleds for recreational purposes. However, they were doing this on the roads of St. Moritz. They would often collide with pedestrians on those roads so they had to invent a way to steer their sleds. This led to the development of the bobsleigh (bobsled): two cresta’s (skeleton sleds) attached together with a board that had a steering mechanism at the front. With time both these activities became Olympic disciplines.
The first competition in the sport was in 1884; however it didn’t reach the international stage until about 30 years later. The IBSF was formed in 1924 and 2-men Bobsleigh appeared in the 1924 Winter Olympics. The 4-men event wasn’t added until 1932. The sport didn’t feature at all in the 1960 Winter Olympics; however, it has featured in every Winter Olympics since. The women’s competitions didn’t start until 1983 and were added to the Olympics in 2002.
Rules & Equipment
Bobsleigh tracks are made of concrete, coated with ice. They are required to have at least one straight section and one labyrinth. Most modern tracks will be around 1200-1300 meters long. Additionally, they will have about 15 curves. The speed going down these tracks might exceed 120 kph. There are bobsleigh tracks that are used for competitions like luge and skeleton.
Sleighs & Crews
Modern day sleighs combine light metals, steel runners, and an aerodynamic composite body. There are various types but for competitions they need to follow certain parameters. Maximum length of 3.80 meters for 4-crew or 2.70 meters for 2-crew. The runners must sit at the 0.67 gauge. In 1952 a weight limit was added. Before that, bobsleigh crews were very heavy so they could get maximum speed. The maximum weight, including crew, is 630 kilograms (4-man), 390 kilograms (2-man), or 340 kilograms (2-woman). Metal weights can be added to reach the required weight.
When it comes to crews they can be either 2 or 4. Until 1930 there were up to 6 people in a crew in Bobsleigh but that was changed. The crew has a pilot, a brakeman, and pushers. Last but not least, we have to mention the steering system. There are two metal rings in the sleigh that are used for steering. The pilot must be very careful when he steers because of the massive speed that the sleigh gets.
Every Bobsleigh race starts with a standing start. The crew pushes the sleigh for 50 meters before they jump onto it. The run is known as the “heat” and in some cases it can be decisive when it comes to winning the race. Race times are recorded in hundredths of seconds, so even seemingly minor errors – especially those at the beginning, which affect the remainder of the heat – can have a measurable impact on the final race standings. Normal races have two runs and the time is combined to get the final outcome. The team with the fastest time wins the race. Bobsleigh events in the World Championships and the Winter Olympics have four runs.
As we mentioned above, there are a lot of national competitions when it comes to Bobsleigh. However, the main ones are the Winter Olympics and the World Championships. Both of them are organized by the IBSF who are the main organization for this sport. However, there is something else that we have to mention for this activity. Through the years, the sport has caused fatal incidents. There have been 17 fatal incidents in big competitions . The last one came in 2004 when brakeswoman Yvonne Cernota was killed during a training accident.
You can always learn more about the sport on IBSF’s website. Additionally, you can head over to our Bitcoin Sportsbook to see excellent markets and odds in our Alpine Skiing offer.