Bobsledding is one of the most iconic sports of the Winter Olympics, but people tend to have lots of questions about it. For instance, how fast do bobsleds go? How do you win at bobsledding? Or even…what is bobsledding?
Many of the questions arise because people just aren’t as familiar with the ins and outs of bobsledding—which is also sometimes called bobsleigh—since fewer people tend to grow up bobsledding than playing other sports, like track, basketball, or softball. After all, with its high speeds among icy, twisty turns, it’s not typically a sport you’d see on the high school roster.
But bobsledding certainly is on the Olympic schedule, and it’s been a mainstay there. The high-speed sleigh rides have been included in every Olympics except for one—the 1960 Squaw Valley Games—since it debuted in 1924. Since then, the sport has continued to evolve, and in 2002, a two-woman’s team was added to the program in Salt Lake City. This year at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, there will be four separate bobsled events: two-man, two-woman, four-man, and monobob for women—the last one being a brand-new event for the 2022 Games.
Keep reading for answers to all your questions on bobsledding, especially as it relates to the 2022 Winter Games!
What is bobsledding?
Bobsledding is the sport of sliding down an ice-covered, twisting incline on a high-sided sled.
There are competitive categories for four-person, two-person, and one-person sleds.
According to NPR, both speed and agility are vital for bobsledders. The athletes’ speed really comes in at the beginning, when they push the heavy sled—a two-woman sled weighs at least 284 pounds—down the first 50 meters of the course. Then comes the agility part: The athletes have to cleanly jump into the sled as it hurtles down the track. This can get even trickier in the events with two or four athletes.
How fast do bobsleds go?
Bobsleds are fast. According to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, the four-man bobsled can travel at speeds of up to 93 miles per hour, and a monobob can go 75 miles per hour. All while navigating an icy, twisty track!
How do you win at bobsledding?
Bobsledding is a timed sport. The track fits one team at a time, so teams take turns with their runs, and their times are then compared to determine the winner. Race times are clocked from an aggregate of four separate runs known as “heats.” Whichever team has the quickest time wins. Competition tends to be really close, so race times are measured in hundredths of a second.
What’s the difference between bobsledding, luge, and skeleton?
Bobsled, luge, and skeleton are all categorized as “sliding sports” in the Olympic program, and as such, they have some similarities: The general goal of each sport is to slide down the track as quickly as possible. But there are some important differences between bobsled, luge, and skeleton. For one, each sport features a different type of sled, sliding style, and number of athletes inside the sled. Bobsled is typically a team sport (though this year marks the debut of the women’s monobob), in which bobsledders navigate a high-sided sled from a seated position after getting a running start. In luge, athletes start from a seated position on the sled and ride flat on their back with their feet first. In skeleton, athletes begin their run from a standing start before assuming a head-first prone position.
How long has bobsledding been an Olympic sport?
Bobsled made its Olympic debut in 1924 with the four-man event at the Winter Games in Chamonix, France. The two-man event was added to the Olympic program at the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid, and the two-woman event joined the program at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The women’s monobob will make its Olympic debut at the Beijing Games this year.
How many medals in bobsledding has Team USA won?
The United States has won 25 medals in bobsled going into the Beijing Games, behind Switzerland (31) and tied with Germany (25). However, looking solely at gold medals, Germany comes out on top with 13.
Does Jamaica have a bobsled team?
So, does Jamaica have a bobsled team in real life? (Cool Runnings fans, we see you.) Jamaica does in fact have a bobsled team—the 1993 Disney film was based on the true story of the Jamaican national team’s debut at the 1988 Winter Olympics. According to the International Olympic Committee, the account was heavily fictionalized, although the team actually did crash in the games.
Since then, the Jamaican bobsledding team has competed in six Winter Games. If you have heard more about the film again lately, that’s because Team Jamaica qualified a four-man sled to the Olympics for the first time in 24 years. They’ll also compete at the Beijing Games in two-man and women’s monobob—and are looking to come out with performances worthy of their own real-life movie montage.