Bobsleighing is a very high-speed sport in which the fastest bobsleigh to cross the finish line is the winner. Each sled travels along curvy, iced tracks. At the beginning of the race, which is vital to a team's success, team members will run alongside the sled until it picks up speed, which is when they hop into the bobsleigh. A four-person bobsleigh can reach speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour. The two-person bobsleigh runs somewhat slower but still achieves a high speed.
Bobsleighing, also known as bobsledding, was first established in the 1880s in the Swiss Alps. A toboggan was first formed when people in Switzerland connected two skeleton sleds together and attached a steering system. The first official bobsleigh competition took place in 1898. It happened on the Cresta Run in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. This competition proceeded in the same place where the first bobsleigh club was established in 1897.
Each bobsleigh team has a pilot and a brakeman. The pilot is in control of the steering while the brakeman controls the breaks at turns to ensure precision and safety. Each rider, regardless of position, is required to wear a helmet, eye goggles, uniform, and spike shoes.
There are specific rules and regulations for the tracks in bobsleighing. A major goal of these rules is to reduce the risk of injury and death. Each track must be 1200 to 1300 meters, and the track must be able to endure vehicles that reach 80 to 100 mile per hour speeds in the first 250 meters of the track. The track must also have a downhill slope.
Each race consists of four rounds for each team. The times of each round are added up, and the winner is determined by the total fastest time.
There was a significant rule change that further developed bobsleighing. In 1952, there was a rule put into place that limited the total weight of the sled and crew. This rule leveled the playing field for bobsleighing as a sporting competition.
The sleds used to bobsleigh eventually evolved from wooden sleds to steel sleds. These sleds are now referred to as bobsleighs. The sleds got their name from the way the crew "bobs" their heads back and forth while trying to make the sled go faster at the start of the race.
Bobsleighing debuted at the Olympic Games in 1924 in Chamonix. It was a four-man race. In 1932, at the Lake Placid Olympic Games, two-person bobsledding was introduced. The first race that women were featured in the Olympics for bobsledding was in 2002.