Winter Sports – Know about Bobsleigh

Winter sports are competitive sports which are played on snow or ice. Most are variations of skiing, ice skating and sledding. Traditionally, such games were only played in cold areas during winter, but artificial snow and artificial ice allow more flexibility.

Artificial ice can be used to provide ice rinks for ice skating, ice hockey, ringette, indoor broomball, bandy, rink bandy, rinkball, and sponge hockey in a milder climate. Common individual sports include cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, speed skating, figure skating, luge, skeleton, bobsleigh, ski orienteering and snowmobiling.

Common team sports include ice hockey, ringette, broomball (on either an indoor ice rink, or an outdoor ice rink or field of snow), curling, and bandy. Based on the number of participants, ice hockey is the world’s most popular winter team sport, followed by bandy.

Winter sports have their own multi-sport events, notable winter sporting events are Winter Olympic Games, Nordic Games, World Cup, Arctic Winter Games, Asian Winter Games, Winter Paralympic Games, Winter Universiade, Winter Dew Tour, Winter X Games, Winter X Games Europe.

Winter sports which are part of Olympic Winter Games are Ice skating – Figure skating, Short-track speed skating and Speed skating.

Skiing – Alpine skiing, Biathlon, Cross-country skiing, Freestyle skiing, Mogul skiing, Nordic combined and Ski jumping.

Sledding – Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton.

Snowboarding – Alpine snowboarding, Boardercross, Slalom and Slopestyle.

Team sports – Curling and Ice hockey.

Sledding:

Sledding, sledging or sleighing is a winter sport typically carried out in a prone or seated position on a vehicle generically known as a sled (North American), a sledge (British), or a sleigh. It is the basis of three Olympic sports: luge, skeleton and bobsledding.

Bobsleigh:

Bobsleigh or bobsled is a team winter sport that involves making timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. International bobsleigh competitions are governed by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.

Tracks:

Modern tracks are made of concrete, coated with ice. They are required to have at least one straight section and one labyrinth (three turns in quick succession without a straight section). Ideally, a modern track should be 1,200 to 1,300 metres (3,900–4,300 ft) long and have at least fifteen curves. Speeds may exceed 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph), and some curves can subject the crews to as much as 5 g.

Sleighs and crews:

Modern day sleighs combine light metals, steel runners, and an aerodynamic composite body. Competition sleighs must be a maximum of 3.80 metres (12.5 ft) long (4-crew) or 2.70 metres (8.9 ft) long (2-crew). The runners on both are set at 0.67 metres (2.2 ft) gauge. Until the weight-limit rule was added in 1952, bobsleigh crews tended to be very heavy to ensure the greatest possible speed. Nowadays, the maximum weight, including crew, is 630 kilograms (1,390 lb) (4-man), 390 kilograms (860 lb) (2-man), or 340 kilograms (750 lb) (2-woman), which can be reached via the addition of metal weights. Bobsleighs themselves are designed to be as light as possible to allow dynamic positioning of mass through the turns of the bobsleigh course.

Although bobsleigh crews once consisted of five or six people, they were reduced to two- and four-person sleighs in the 1930s. The crew has a pilot, a brakeman, and pushers. Athletes are selected based on their speed and strength, which are necessary to push the sleigh to a competitive speed at the start of the race. Pilots must have the skill, timing, and finesse to steer the sleigh along the path, or “line” that will produce the greatest speed.

In modern bobsleighs, the steering system consists of two metal rings that actuate a pulley system located in the forward cowling that turns the front runners. For example, to turn left, the pilot would pull the left ring. Only subtle steering adjustments are necessary to guide the sled; at speeds up to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h), anything larger would result in a crash. The pilot does most of the steering, and the brakeman stops the sled after crossing the finish line by pulling the sled’s brake lever.

Women compete in women’s bobsleigh (which is always two-woman) and men in both two and four-man competitions. Women were confirmed as being able to compete in any four-“man” bobsleigh event, as from 25 September 2014, either as part of a mixed-sex team or an all-female team. However, because women are on average lighter than men (and thus at a competitive disadvantage in a gravity sport), and because most sliding nations have fewer women able to compete than men, this option has not proved popular with teams.

Monobob:

A single-person bobsleigh is called a “monobob”. Single-person sleds were introduced into international competition for both adaptive bobsleigh (for athletes who are able to drive a sled but not push) and as a youth sport (for younger athletes who have not yet developed the ability to push a heavy two- or four-person sled). After the 2018 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee and the IBSF agreed to add women’s monobob as an Olympic sport for the 2022 Winter Olympics, so that there would be an equal number of women’s and men’s events in bobsleigh.

Prior to the 2020–21 competitive season, monobobs were traditionally constructed on one-piece chassis. Starting with the 2020–21 season, competitors in IBSF-sanctioned races must use articulated (two-section) monobobs manufactured by the IBSF’s sole source sled builder, iXent. The sled must weigh a minimum of 162 kg (357 lb) without the athlete (but including timing equipment and any ballast weights) and a maximum of 247 kg (545 lb) including the athlete; runners are the same as for two-person bobsleighs. This implies a maximum athlete weight limit of 85 kg (187 lb).

Racing:

Individual runs down the course, or “heats”, begin from a standing start, with the crew pushing the sled for up to 50 metres (160 ft) before boarding; though the pilot does not steer, grooves in the ice make steering unnecessary until the sled leaves the starting area. While poor form during the initial push can lose a team the heat, it is otherwise rarely, if ever, decisive. Over the rest of the course, a sleigh’s speed depends on its weight, aerodynamics, runners, the condition of the ice, and the skill of the pilot.

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.

The men’s and women’s standings for normal races are calculated over the aggregate of two runs or heats. At the Olympic Winter Games and World Championships, all competitions (for both men and women) consist of four heats.

Equipment:

Sleigh: modern day sleighs are made of steel, light metals and fibre glasses. The length of the sleigh must be a maximum of 3.80 metres (12.5 ft) for four-man sports and 2.70 metres (8.9 ft) in case of two –man sports. Bobsleigh crews are supposed weigh heavy in order to ensure great possible speed. The maximum weight of a sleigh including the crews is 630kg (for four -man), 390kg (for two-man) and 340kg (for two-woman) including the additional metal weights. The Bobsleighs are designed as light as it could be to ensure dynamic movement of the crews during the turns of the course.

Shoes: Shoes are made of synthetic materials. Specially designed shoes are used in bobsleigh. These shoes have spikes of maximum 4mm in size that are helpful during traction at the beginning of the game, when the player pushes the sleigh up to some distance in order to provide the initial boost.

Push Handles: Many push handles are the on the sleigh itself which are used to push the sleigh at the beginning. The retractable side push handles are used to push the sleigh at the beginning.

Helmets: Helmets are a must for the players because of security reasons. These helmets are usually made of high tech plastic composites and are mainly used to avoid head injuries. Some helmets have a visor for the player’s eyes whereas others simply use goggles for eye protection.

Bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics:

The event has been featured since the first Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, with the exception of the 1960 games in Squaw Valley when the organizing committee decided not to build a track in order to reduce expenses. Other than that exception, the four-man competition has been competed at every game (in 1928, it was a five-man competition). The two-man event was introduced at the 1932 Lake Placid games and a two-woman event was first contested at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Events: Four-Man, Two-Man, Two-Woman & Monobob-women’s

Multiple Medalists:

Kevin Kuske and André Lange of Germany are the most successful Olympic bobsledders, both have five medals, of which four are gold medals attained in three consecutive Olympics.

Bogdan Musiol of Germany won seven Olympic medals (one gold, five silvers and one bronze in four consecutive Olympics).

Canadian pilot Kaillie Humphries is the most successful female bobsledder in Olympic history. In 2010 and 2014 she and Heather Moyse won record 2 gold medals. In 2018 Kaillie Humphries won bronze medal in pair with Phylicia George.

Germany leading the all-time medal table with 23 combined medals including 13 Gold, followed by Switzerland with 31 combined medals including 10 Gold and USA with 25 combined medals including 7 Gold.