Technique: the start and the drive

There are three main ingredients to be a world class Bobsleigh team: the start; the equipment; and the drive.

We’ve covered the equipment in the kit and sled sections so here’s the lowdown on key components numbers one and three:

The start

  • The athletes push the sled as fast as they can over a distance of 65m from a standing start
  • The clock doesn’t start until the crew hit the 15m mark
  • A spilt time is given for 50m (65m from the standing start and 50m from when the clock starts)
  • Getting a fast start is crucial to your chances of finishing on the podium: if you are not within 1/10th of a second of the fastest start time, your chances of winning are minimal
  • As a general rule, 1/10th of a second during the start equates to 3/10ths of a second over the full course

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The basics

  • The athletes grab hold of handles on the side and back of the sled to help them push
  • The pilot is the first to load into the sled at the end of the start
  • In the four-man bob, the two side pushers follow the pilot in, with the brakeman at the back of the sled loading last
  • The side handles will be collapsed once the athletes have loaded

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The drive

  • The pilot/driver is the person that sits in the front of the bobsleigh and steers the sled down the track
  • Drivers steer the sled in a similar style to the way you may have steered a childhood sled: by manipulating a pair of ropes connected to the sled’s runners
  • Drivers are often the first person to arrive at the venue as they need to learn how to negotiate their way down the track in the fastest line possible
  • Tracks vary from 1200-1900m in length and can have between 12 and 21 turns
  • Visualization is a key tool for pilots: they walk the tracks everyday with the coaches and visualise each and every corner. They also look at point of view footage on the internet and many have their own stockpile of footage and photos for every corner of every bend on every track

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