Ice Hockey has had its moments in history. Downhill Skiing may be the most-exhilarating sport ever put on TV. And Figure Skating is about as technical and awe-inspiring as anything. But only one sport really embodies the Winter Olympics...
Bobsleigh. Or "Bobsled", as it's called in America.
The fans hanging over the edge of the track waving their flags as the cameras flash. The athletes with the fate of their nation on their 'mcfv', riding as a perfect synchronized unit around the hairpin turns.
The giant boat of a sled, emblazoned with national colors, climbing up and down the huge ice walls with every inch marking the difference between gold and silver.
No sport seems to be quite as proud as bobsleigh. With just a few handfuls of bobsled tracks in Europe and Asia and only four in North America (Lake Placid and Park City in the United States), it is a sport few athletes can try.
And the expansive, man-made bobsled facilities are always a major factor separate the cities that can host a Winter Olympics from those who can't.
So what is bobsleigh?
Bobsleigh or bobsled is a team winter sport that involves timed runs down narrow, bending, iced, banked tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. An average time from several runs is used to determine to winners.
Want to learn more by seeing the sport? Check out the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Digital Combine
How and where did Bobsleigh originate?
Sledding on snow and ice has been popular in countries with snow for centuries. The beginnings of bobsleighing as a modern sport were not that long ago. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation was founded in 1923.
The four-man Bobsleigh made its first appearance in the Olympics in 1924. The two-man Bobsleigh was introduced to the Olympics in 1932. The first two-woman bobsleigh team participated in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
How many athletes are on a bobsleigh team?
Bobsleigh crews originally consisted of five to six people but were reduced to two and four-person sleighs in the 1930s. Women also compete in Bobsleigh but only have two-women teams.
What is each team member called on a Bobsled team? And what are they responsible for?
The crew has a pilot, a brakeman, and pushers in a four-man team. These positions are assigned based on the athlete's speed and strength.
The pilot steers the sleigh, the pushers run to push the sleigh initially, and the brakeman obviously brakes after finishing the race.
What kind of shoes do bobsledders wear to run?
Similar to track cleats, their shoes have spikes on the soles. But unlike track cleats, there are 250 small spikes on the bottom of each shoe. These spikes help give the athlete traction to push the sled forward.
Almost every bobsled team member wears the same brand of shoes. Adidas is the only professional advertised company that currently makes shoes for this sport.
Want to see how bobsledders run on ice? You can meet some of the athletes on Team USA in the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Digital Combine.
What is included in a bobsleigh run?
There is a specially built narrow and twisting track in a bobsleigh run. Tracks are tilted at corners to give the desired boost to athletes. The tracks are made of concrete and filled with snow and ice.
Used to race are the sleighs, typically made of steel, light metals, and libre glasses. The length of the sleigh can be a maximum of 12.5-feet for the four-man events and 8.9-feet for the two-man events.
How long is a typical bobsleigh track?
Bobsleigh track lengths in international competitions are usually between 1200 and 1600 meters long.
Beijing’s bobsleigh track is 1.9 kilometers, or 1900 meters long.
How fast do the sleds go in Bobsleigh?
The International bobsled and Skeleton federation states that sleds can reach "up to 150 kilometers per hour". In the 2010 winter Olympics, one sled reached 95 miles per hour.
Is Bobsleigh dangerous?
Bobsleighing is a dangerous sport. Many things could go wrong and cause severe injury or even death. The worst injuries are when an athlete is thrown out of a sled. The most common injuries are fractures, concussions, ice burns, and possible broken bones.
What countries are historically the best at bobsled?
Switzerland and Germany are known by far for having the most successful bobsledding teams.
The Swiss have won more medals in bobsleighing in Olympic, World, and European Championships than any other nation.
Who are currently the best 2-man teams in the world?
The top bobsleighing athletes are Oskars Kibermanis and Vairis Leiboms from Latvia. Near the top are Benjamin Maier and Markus Sammer from Austria. Another favorite is the 2-man team of Marko Huebenbecker and Maximillian Arndt from Germany.
But the American team is becoming a force to be reckoned with! You can meet some of their athletes and even show them what you can do in the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Digital Combine.