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Updated: July 18, 2013 4:54 PM | By pa.press.net

Winter Olympics 2014: Bobsleigh

A guide to the sport of bobsleigh at Sochi 2014


A two-woman bobsleigh at high speed (© Copyright [c] Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.)

A two-woman bobsleigh at high speed

History

Single-sled tobogganing was beginning to get established in St Moritz in the 1880s when a group of American visitors arrived and proceeded to join two sleds together with a 12-foot board.

The rudimentary early bobsleds were designed for one person to ride head-first, and were initially banned from competitions due to safety concerns and the advantages pilots could have through steering. The new sport took off quickly, and by 1892 four-man bobsleighs were racing down the Cresta Run.

Four-man bobsleigh was one of the original Winter Games sports in 1924, and has been contested at every Games since with the exception of 1960. Two-man bobsleigh was introduced in 1932.

Women were excluded from the sport until 1995, when the first international tournament for women was staged, and it was not until 2002 that the two-woman bobsleigh was introduced to the Olympic program.

Disciplines

There are three bobsleigh events: the four-man bobsleigh, the two-man bobsleigh and the two-woman bobsleigh. Each discipline consists of four runs over two days, with the lowest cumulative time from the four runs deciding the placings.

Equipment

Piloting a powerful, steel-and-fibreglass bobsleigh down a twisting ice chute is a surprisingly delicate operation. The driver must steer via two hanging pulleys, over-use of which can result in the sled overturning.

Unlike their skeleton and luge equivalents, bobsleds also have a brake, which the last man, or brake-man, operates when the sled has crossed the finish line. Bobsledders wear rubberised, aerodynamic suits and helmets, and spiked shoes to assist with their crucial push-starts.

Stars

Germany may have dominated much of bobsleigh's Olympic history, but arguably its greatest pilot is the Italian Eugenio Monti, who won two Olympic gold medals - both at the 1968 Games - as well as nine World Championship golds.

Germany go to Sochi as the reigning two-man champions, with Kevin Kuske having successfully defended his title in 2010, and Kuske will be keen to wrest back the four-man crown from American Steven Holcomb.

Canada's Kaillie Humphries is a strong favourite to defend her women's title.

Venue

The bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics takes place at the Sliding Center Sanki.