The sport of bobsleigh did not begin until the late 19th century when the Swiss attached two skeleton sleds together and added a steering mechanism to make a toboggan. A chassis was added to give protection to wealthy tourists. The world's first bobsleigh club was founded in St Moritz, Switzerland, in 1897.
By the 1950s, the critical importance of the start had been recognized, and athletes with explosive strength from other sports were drawn to bobsledding. In 1952, a vital rule change limiting the total weight of the crew and sled ended the super heavyweight bobsledder era. It rebalanced the sport as an athletic contest.
BACK AND FORTH
In its original form, the first races used skeleton sleds made of wood. However, they were soon replaced by steel sleds that came to be known as bobsleighs because of the way crews bobbed back and forth to increase their speed at the start. Today, the world's top teams train year-round and compete mostly on artificial ice tracks in sleek high-tech sleds made of fiberglass and steel.
In 1924, a four-man race took place at the first-ever Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. A two-man event was added at the 1932 Lake Placid Games in a format that has remained to the present. The first women's bobsleigh event - the two-woman bobsled - was held in 2002.
The crew of a two-person bobsleigh consists of a brakeman and a driver; in four-person bobsleigh, two more athletes are added for the push phase. From the starting point, the crew pushes the sled 50 meters. This distance is usually covered in less than six seconds, reaching speeds of over 40 km/h before the team takes its place in the sled again.
Bobsled races last two days, with two runs per day. The lowest overall time, measured to the hundredth of a second, decides the winner. If two teams complete the competition simultaneously, they are placed in the same position.
There is a distinct advantage to being among the first on the track while the ice is still fresh and not rough and cut. Therefore, to determine which teams have the best starting positions, the order of departure for the Winter Olympics Games' first run will be based on the world ranking. In contrast, the ranking from the previous run will be taken into account for subsequent runs.