Bobsleigh & skeleton:
a Great British success story
The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton teams have a proud record of success on the world stage, both in the years preceding the merger of the British Bobsleigh Association and the British Bob Skeleton Association and the seasons that have followed the creation of the BBSA in 2015.
The British Skeleton team won a remarkable hat-trick of medals at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea and have now won a staggering seven medals since the sport was re-introduced to the Olympic fold in 2002.
The four-man bobsleigh squad won Olympic bronze as recently as 2014 in Sochi and both sports have won World Cup medals over the last two seasons.
The teams won more than 100 medals in the last Olympic cycle and now have their sights set on more success at the next Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.
What is bobsleigh?
- Bobsleigh is a team sport in which men compete in two and four man sleds and women compete in two-woman crews
- They push the sled as a team and then all load into the bobsleigh in quick succession
- The pilot or driver then takes over the steering and negotiates the sled through a sequence of tricky turns at speeds of up to 156kph (97mph), over a course that is on average one mile long
- When the bobsleigh reaches the finish line, the brakeperson slows the sled down to a stop
- Crews have two or four timed runs down a track (four at World Championship and Olympic level and two in all other competitions), with the combined times resulting in a team’s final position in the standings
What is skeleton?
- Skeleton is an individual sport in which athletes compete in either a men's or women's field
- Athletes push the sled as fast they can before jumping on
- Competitors then slide head first, with their face just inches from the ice
- Sliders must negotiate a series of tricky twists and turns, on a sled that offers little protection from the ice or barriers, while reaching speeds of up to 145km/h (90mph)
- As with bobsleigh, athletes have either two or four runs down a track, with each run timed. The times are then added together to calculate the winner
- In the early days of both sports, all races were held on natural ice tracks. These days, with the exception of St Moritz in Switzerland, competitions take place on artificially refrigerated ice tracks
- To create a refrigerated track, ammonia is pumped through pipes in concrete walls to cool them. Water is then sprayed on the concrete until it freezes. This is done repeatedly until layers and layers of ice are formed. It can take a couple of days to fully prepare a track for racing
- Most tracks are between 1.2km and 1.8km in length and have their own unique characteristics and varying degrees of difficulty. The average gradient is between 8.5 and 10%, with a maximum of between 15 and 20%. The vertical drop (which is the difference in height between the start and finish of the track) is, on average, between 110m and 130m
- Each track has a different combination of bends. Some, called ‘Kreisel’ bends, even loop through a full 360 degrees, where athletes must negotiate the equivalent of a two-storey-high wall
- Believe it or not, many tracks even have uphill sections. Sochi, in Russia, for example, has three. The last section of the track is uphill to help the athletes safely slow down to a stop