The history of British Bobsleigh

While Great Britain can't claim to be the home of bobsleigh, it does have a strong case to be the founder of the sport. The invention of bobsleigh has been ascribed to a group of Englishmen on holiday in St Moritz in Switzerland in the late 1800s, while there are also pictures from the early 1880s of boys at Harrow School hurtling down snowy slopes on toboggans tied together.

The first purpose-built track solely for bobsleds opened in 1902 just outside of St Moritz, with that track and many of the ones that followed featuring a straight run rather than the twists and turns we are used to today.

British Bobsleigh was officially formed in 1927 in New York as the UK governing body for the sport and in 1980 the association was incorporated to become the British Bobsleigh Association Ltd.

Leading the way

Great Britain can claim to have led the way in the development of the modern bobsleigh, which was produced by a small group of young engineers in Leeds prior to the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was a far cry from the original wooden sleds used in the sport’s early days and had many novel features, one of which was inspired by Concorde.

Olympic participation

Men’s Bobsleigh was included in the first Winter Olympics in 1924, just a year after the formation of the FIBT (IBSF), and has been a key part of the Games ever since. The sport has featured at every Olympiad bar the 1960 Games in California, with two-man bobsleigh joining the party eight years after the four-man version, in 1932.

Great Britain won Gold at the 1964 Olympics, with Tony Nash and Robin Dixon achieving the ultimate accolade in the two-man bob in Innsbruck.

That success was preceded by a Silver medal in the inaugural Games when Ralph Broome, Thomas Arnold, Alexander Richardson and Rodney Soher finished second behind their Swiss counterparts in the French resort of Chamonix. A Bronze medal followed in Nagano in 1998 courtesy of the four-man team of Sean Olsson, Dean Ward, Courtney Rumbolt and Paul Attwood and hopes are high that more Olympic success may be just around the corner.

Recent results

Bobsleigh remains Britain’s most successful winter team sport. Great Britain have finished fifth in the four-man bob at the last three global championships, narrowly missing out on a medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and the World Championships in St Moritz in 2013 and Winterberg in 2015. The squad won Silver at the World Cup event in Lake Placid in 2013 to register a first podium finish since 1997 and have since claimed Gold at the Americas Cup event in Park City in 2014.

Women’s bobsleigh

Women’s bobsleigh became an Olympic Sport in 2002 and has featured at the three Olympics that have followed. Women's bobsleigh continues to increase its levels of participation and British women have repeatedly achieved top-three placings in World events, with Mica McNeill and Sian Huxtable most recently winning Silver at the season-opening Americas Cup event in Park City in 2014.

Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke claimed Gold at the 2009 World Championships, with Minichiello having also landed a Silver alongside Jackie Davies at the same event in Calgary four years earlier. Minichiello and Davies secured top spot at the 2005 World Push Championships, while recently retired pilot Paula Walker won World Junior Championship Gold alongside Rebekah Wilson in Lake Placid in 2011.