Mountain Sports

History of Bobsledding

Former Army World Class Athlete Program bobsledder Steven Holcomb

Bobsledding, also referred to as bobsleighing, is a sport of sliding down on a natural or artificial incline covered with ice on a four-runner sled that supports either two or four men. Sled is also known as bob, bobsleigh, and bobsled. Bobsledding is a dangerous, enraged, and exciting.

Bobsledding includes two or four players that move the sled at a speed of about 135km/hr. It is a winter game and regarded as one of the high speed and unsafe games. In this game, the team has to complete the game by boosting the speed at first and then maintaining it. Any of the three teams who finish the race are announced as winners.

The key to bobsledding is discovering the ideal racing line. The thing that the driver must keep in mind is that he must keep bobsled high enough to preserve the speed and low enough to prevent covering extra distance. The struggle that the driver faces keeps his furiously-shaking sled on the path.

Speed is the most crucial element in bobsledding. The difference of even 0.001 seconds can make you lose or win the trophy. Bobsledding is a game of 60 seconds; the first six seconds lead the game and are crucial. Another thing that matters in this game is gravity, which plays a critical factor as it keeps the bobsleds in motion.

The number of springs in bobsled shoes determines who will take the trophy home. There are specially designed shoes for bobsledders since they have a very significant role in the game. From the Physics perspective, bobsledding is just like a block sliding down on slow friction inclined plane. According to physics, three forces act on the bobsled, i.e., normal force, gravitational force, and the reaction force that pushes up.

Participating Countries

Due to the suitable climate for bobsledding, it is mainly played in European countries accompanying Russia and North America. Based on the successful track record for bobsledding, Switzerland and Germany are the most fortunate nations. Before the 1950s, America has the honor of winning this sport due to its command on technical innovations. But presently, Germany has the status of winning most Olympic medals in bobsledding.

Several other countries where bobsledding is admired include Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Austria, the United States of America, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, Romania, and Latvia.

History of Bobsledding

Interestingly, the sled was used as a mode of transportations for centuries. The bobsled as a game did not begin until the late 1900s. Swiss invented bobsledding in the late 1860s; teams used to make timed runs down on the twisting iced path using gravity power sleds. For the safety of wealthy tourists, a chassis was attached to the bobsled. In 1897, the first bobsledding club was established, in St Moritz, Switzerland.

By 1914, the bobsledding races were occurring on a diverse range on a natural ice track. In 1923, the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF), initially FédérationInternationale de bobsleigh et de tobogganing (FIBT), was established, the next year a four-man, race occurred at the primary historically speaking Winter Olympics game in Chamonix, France. A two-person occasion was included, at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, USA, a configuration that has stayed to the present.

Bobsledding was started as a hobby for the wealthy and bold people who assembled at alpine hotels for spending their weekends celebrating and participating in the competition. There was nothing of the sort as preparing. Competitors basically purchased or leased a sled, began as a rider, and afterward took the wheel after a couple of runs.

Since the time of the creation of bobsledding, women have always been engaged in it. But women were not allowed to participate in the competitions. They were permitted to take part in two-woman bobsled competitions after Winter Olympic games 2002. Nevertheless, there were women race demonstrations during the World Cup competition of bobsled in March 1983.

The number of players in a bobsled game has been changed gradually from five or six to two and four. Originally, the bobsled tracks were straight and all-natural without refrigeration. Whereas, the modern bobsled tracks are built of concrete and are enfolded with ice. Gradually, rotation and spins were added into the new bobsled tracks over time.

There have been a lot of changes made in the weight and material of bobsled over the years. The early bobsleds were made of wood. Whereas, the new sleighs are changed to fiberglass and metal. To increase the speed of sleds, more aerodynamics frames have been added.

The history of bobsled displays how an uncomplicated and effortless game started with the purpose of entertainment, can be developed into a marvelously fast sport. Many years of trial and error changed the training, competition, crew, and tracks of the game. This led the foundation of the modern bobsledding game that we all are familiar with.

Rules of Bobsledding

There is no doubt that bobsledding is a captivating game, but you cannot ignore the risks associated with it. More than 93 players have been died in accidents during this game till now. To avoid accidents and danger, officials have made particular rules and guidelines for the players. These guidelines were about how to use the sled and regarding the structure of the ice track.

  • Some specific rules regarding the shape, temperature, and structure of the runner were made. Runners are used for sliding on the ice. The blades of the runners are made up of homogenous steel. The shape of the runner must be round rather than sharp to avoid accidents. There are standard rules regarding the length and width of the runner. These rules have to be followed at the time of construction. You can even polish the runners to avoid friction.
  • The temperature of the runner must be within the range of some degrees. Before the start of every game, the temperature of the runners is measured. And if it differs more than 4 degrees, the team gets disqualified. But to increase the speed of bobsled, you can coat the runners.
  • To avoid accidents and minimize the risks, strict rules and guidelines have been made regarding the racetrack. Racetrack length must be between 1200 to 1300 meters, and it must be designed in such a way that in the first 250 meters, the speed can reach up to 80m/hr. to 100m/hr.
  • The track must slop downhill, and there must be one straightway and one labyrinth in the overall racecourse.
  • After the completion of each game, the weight and other specifications of bobsled runners are tested by the sports officials. This is done to make sure that no rules have been broken. After the test, if any team or player is found to be illegally coating runners with more silicon for the better slide or with warmer temperature, he gets disqualified.
  • The weight guidelines for four-man are 630kg, and for two-man are 390kgs. For two-woman, the weight guideline is 340kg. Neglecting any instruction results in disqualification.
  • For further safety of the players, they are provided with the protective gear, high tech helmets made of plastic, and athletic uniforms.
  • In case if bobsled gets turned upside down and reaches the finishing boundary, if the members of the team are still inside the sled, the team wins. But if the players get thrown away from the bobsled, the team gets disqualified.

Final Words

Bobsledding is an exciting and engaging game, but it is very threatening as well. You need to follow all the standard rules and guidelines provided by the sport’s official to avoid accidents and injuries. It has a classical history, and in ancient times, it was the hobby of wealthy people. But now it is an official international game. Like Formula-1, bobsledding is also considered one of the high-speed games and is equally trendy.

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