Loading into a Sled
Getting into a bobsleigh, or “loading” is uniquely different for every member of the crew. The driver’s load remains the same regardless of whether they are pushing a one, two, or four-person sled. However, for the others each carries with it its own unique set of requirements.
The pilot has the shortest distance to run of all the athletes. They are the first into the sled. They must perform a jump, bringing both feet over the side of the sled and usually landing on their seat. From here they will drop their feet wither side of the steering mechanism. They will then bring their arms down and into the sled, as they do this, they hit a small button or lever which then collapses their push handle into the sled.
The Brakeman or woman in a 2-person sled has two handles, one on each end of the sled’s shell. From here they will forcibly push their entire body through the sled to get their body in a position similar to that of a deadlift or clean, but at an angle. It is here that they can exert the most force, fully using their legs. As they push they will then transition their arms up and through until they are in a pushing position. Once the driver has loaded in the brakeperson will then run as far as they can. Once they are no longer able to push they will perform what is essentially a long jump into the sled, bringing both of their legs in front of them, and then falling into the folded over position they need to be. A proficient brakeperson can do this all in one move.
4-man, No. 2
The “Number two” is the second person to load after the pilot in a 4-man sled. They can be on the left or the right hand side of the sled, and this usually just depends on athlete preference. To load, either side athlete must put their outside foot across their body, and onto a small foothold. The foothold is often about the size of an iPhone. Essentially tripping themselves up, they must then launch off this footpad and reach forward In the sled about 1.5m to put their hands near the pilots head, but on the side of the sled. They simultaneously swing their legs over the side of the sled, and bring their feet into position either both sides of the driver, or tucked in behind the driver’s seat. Often when launching off the foot pad and reaching for the front the athlete will be completely airborne.
Once in, the no.2 must hold themselves up, and wait for the 2 men* behind him to load. They will then act as the keystone, dropping down once the others are in, and locking everyone in place.
4-man, No. 3
The push and the foot placement for a number 3 is exactly the same as that of the number two. However they will not reach as far along the sled, instead moving almost laterally. They then slide their legs down the sides and underneath the number 2. This means that when the number 2 sits down his waist goes between the legs of number 3, but the rest of his body locks them both in place.
4-man, No. 4
The hit and push of a number 4 is the same as that on a 2-person sled. Except in this instance once he loads, he will swing his legs either side of number 3. It is then the responsibility of no.4 to shout and let the others know that they are in. this signal then means that both no 2, and no.3 can drop down and lock the whole crew in their positions. No.4 must also make sure that the push handles for both 2 and 3 are properly collapsed. This could either be through a lever, or sometimes hitting them in as they load.
The entire load of a 4-man crew should take under 1 second, so practising and perfecting this is a huge part of the sport, and what make it so interesting to work. It is often called choreography, for the delicate and precise nature that otherwise large, strong men must perform.
*4-man is a solely male event at the time of writing, so male pronouns are used.