What is Bobsleigh?
Bobsleigh is a Winter Olympic sport which sees one, two, or four person teams perform timed runs down an ice track with banked curves, powered only by gravity and with no brakes! The sport was formed in 1884 when Hotels in the ski resort of St. Mortiz were vying for customers and so created events for their patrons to try. Naturally a competitive angle was created and before long teams were racing each other and various courses were being made.
Since then bobsleigh has become a Winter Olympic sport and is now raced in highly refined aerodynamic sleds which can travel at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour over a 1-mile track. The team of athletes will push the sled at the top of the track, and then load in. From then on, the sled is controlled by the driver who has a rudimentary steering system to guide the sled down the track in the fastest and safest manner.
Bobsleigh has become the “blue ribbon event” of the winter Olympics and is often called “F1 on ice” for the being the high-speed winter equivalent of the motorsport. The high speeds and precarious nature of the sport mean that there are often crashes and mishaps which make watching the sport a gripping and exhilarating experience.
Bobsleigh in the Olympics
Bobsleigh has existed in the Winter Olympics since the first one in Chamonix, France. Here the 4-man event actually allowed 5 people to ride on the sled at one time. The gold and silver medals were won by Switzerland and Great Britain respectively, who were the first two nations to form bobsleigh as a sport.
Bobsleigh now has 4 different events in the winter Olympics. They are usually held at the end of the games as a “Grande Finale”. There are two events for women, and two events for men. The women compete in the 2-person event, and the newly added monobob event. Whereas the men compete in 2-man, and 4-man events. However unlike in the first Olympics, this is now strictly only 4 men allowed!
What is a Brakeman?
A Brakeman, Brakewoman, or Brakeperson, is the name given to someone that pushes a bobsleigh. This is because, in a 2-person bobsleigh, the push athlete at the back sits on the breaks, and it is their job to putt eh brakes when the sled crosses the finish line. In a 4-man bobsleigh there are two extra athletes that actually do not touch the brakes at any time, however this phrase is extended to them for simplicity. These athletes can also be known as a “Push Athlete” though no one will get upset if you use the two interchangeably.
How Many People are in a Bobsleigh
At the first Olympic games bobsleigh allowed 5 people to compete in the 4-man event. This was seen as being like rowing where a team of eight will also have a Coxwain (or Cox), so too bobsleigh had a driver. However this was phased out and now all 4 athletes will push, but only one does the driving. In the sport today there are three separate disciplines, over four events; two womens, and two men’s. For women there is the traditional 2-person bobsleigh, and the newly introduced “Monobob” where just the pilot is in the sled. On the men’s side there is the 4-man even and the 2-man event, with the 4-man being considered the most prestigious of all the events.