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If you want to ride a bobsleigh, you should have an above-average basic condition; the bobsleigh is controlled by shifting the body weight.
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The sport of bobsleigh can be carried out in many different ways. There is the Einerbob with only one single rider. Somewhat larger machines are driven by two people and are known as two-man bobsleds. However, the very large bobsleds have four riders and are known as the four-man bobsleigh. The distribution of tasks of the individual athletes varies according to the construction of the bobsleigh.
Bobsleigh was developed by Englishmen in Switzerland at the end of the 19th century. Today it is part of the Olympic Winter Games programme. Bobsleigh is closely related to luge and skeleton sports. It is often referred to as the “king’s class of sledging”.
Bobsledding is one of the most demanding sports and places a lot of demands on athletes. Not only very high forces affect the body, but also the sports equipment must be precisely controlled. Bobsledding is therefore not only a strength sport, but also a precision sport.
The driving technique consists primarily of shifting the body weight. By
- the pressure on the runners, but also on the
- manual control operations,
the bob slide is steered in the desired direction. These steering processes are very demanding, because especially at very high speeds the bob reacts to minimal control impulses with a strong change of direction.
Practice makes perfect
In order to learn the technique of bobsleigh riding correctly, many practice hours and training units are required. Only the experienced athlete can ride a racing sled that can easily override and tilt. Bobsledding is a very dangerous sport and requires a lot of precision.
Rules and equipment
The basic rules of bobsleigh sports are quickly explained: The sports equipment is pushed with muscle power and then steered into the ice channel, where it increasingly picks up speed. The ice channel must be crossed as quickly as possible. The winner of the competition is the athlete or the team that covers the fastest distance.
In bobsleigh, the start is made one after the other and with a large safety distance. The race takes place directly against the clock, so personal duels are only carried out indirectly.
A strict set of rules determines the type and structure of the bobsleigh itself, its composition and its handling characteristics. In addition, the athletes’ clothing is regulated and prescribed.
Athletes who would like to learn bobsledding should therefore have an above-average basic condition.
- The ability to control the body should be very strong.
- Also a very fast and trained reaction ability is necessary.
- Also the fine motor skills must be very well developed, because smallest steering movements have large effects on the ride.
- Prudence is indispensable on sensitive sports equipment, but the athlete should also have the courage and enjoy fast driving with the sled.
- Due to the high risk potential of the sport, it is essential that all regulations are meticulously observed.
Bob sledges can reach speeds well above 100 km/h, even up to 140 km/h. In steep bends and chicanes, the acceleration often exerts very high forces on the athletes.
- The safety of everyone involved has top priority.
- For example, it is forbidden to use an ice rink without permission to take off.
The spectators must also behave accordingly. For example, it is strictly forbidden to enter the bobsleigh track or to hang or throw objects into it.
- Important for bobsleigh riding are, among other things, the ability to react, body control and very good fitness.
The bobsleigh start
The bob start is an essential factor for a good finish time. In order for the initial impulse to be as high as possible in the 260 kg machine, absolute synchronicity between the athletes is necessary. If all four athletes bring their strength into the temple at the same time, the 260 kg are divided by four; the bob is no longer as heavy. If, on the other hand, a man is too early, he hits 260 kilos, is thrown back and the harmony is gone. Absolute synchronicity when the sled is pushed away for the first time gives the vehicle an uncanny first impulse.
The procedures at the start are simple. The bobsleigh’s tug-of-war, which used to be common in the past, is mostly dispensed with, because at most the concentration decreases. After the traffic light has switched to green and the track is clear, a handshake takes place. The athlete on the fourth position positions the sled and then reports as ready with the command best known to the team. The remaining athletes take their positions and fix their feet on the ice. The pilot makes the preparations calmly, almost leisurely. His rhythm is familiar to the team from the intensive summer training. After a few seconds, the pilot’s OK command sounds, which then initiates the start sequence.
The way of approaching the bob depends on the positions. The brakeman (position 4) has two handles and runs at the back between the wings of the bobsleigh shell. Numbers 2 and 3 each have a side bracket and sprint next to the bob. The run-up distance at the launch site is limited by a beam behind the sled. Because the pilot’s handle is the farthest in front, it uses all the way and runs fully into the handle. This method is particularly suitable for two-man bobsleds.
The run-up length of the team varies depending on the track and its condition. Each lane has its own characteristics: length of the starting track, gradient or further course (for example, whether the first turn comes after the starting track, which means that the pilot must be very early on the control ropes). It is important to have a good feeling for how long the push really will last. In the first acceleration phase, the athletes run with short steps in order to extend them successively. Now comes the actual sprint run with the body upright, more knee lift and step forward. The time of getting on depends on whether the pressure on the bob is still effective. The last step before boarding should have the character of an aggressive long jump. If you miss the moment and literally pull yourself onto the sled, you will of course brake the vehicle.
The boarding is coordinated in the order of the positions. The pilot jumps in over the side boarding, numbers 2 and 3 use the side wing, the deflector for boarding, a relatively narrow support that has to be hit exactly. After the numbers 2 and 3 are in the sled they are not allowed to sit down completely, because they have to wait for the fourth man. As soon as the fourth man is seated and has positioned his feet, the third and then the second man can take a seat. Precision also requires sitting down and taking the right position. Every grip and every movement has to be exactly right. You can also practice this in the garage. The pilot grips the steering cables and the brakeman pulls in the brackets to complete the starting process. The starting track is set by the regulations, has a certain length according to the jury’s decision and ends in free ice. At this point at the latest, the pilot should have the steering ropes in a firm hand. It is important that the front part of the sled remains in this track during the start manoeuvre. In the first five to six seconds, the intensive preparations in summer pay off and make an important preliminary decision.
Requirements for bobsleighing
Even if there is no bob on the track, a pedestrian can hardly keep his balance on the steep ice. He would fall and slide down to the valley with a very high risk of injury and endangerment of his life. Therefore, only authorized personnel are allowed on the ice rink.
The distribution of tasks
Bobsleighing is a very powerful sport. In the one-man bob, the athlete must perform all the tasks, while the requirements in the two-man and four-man bobsleds are clearly divided. In principle, bobsledding consists of the components “pushing” and “steering”.
The initial speed with which the bob enters the fairway is built up during pushing. Here, too, tenths of a second can decide the later victory, since the final speed develops from the basic speed.
If you want to act as a pusher in the team bob, you have to be a very good and trained sprinter. Ideal pushers come from athletics and are sprinters, high jumpers or long jumpers. Fast power in combination with muscle power is indispensable here.
Steering is just as demanding a task, because the optimum lane is determined here. If you steer incorrectly, serious accidents, falls or rollovers can occur. Tiny motor control movements can result in large driving movements, bends or changes of direction in the icy, fast bobsleigh track.
The helmsman should not be a proven sprinter. However, he should be able to sprint fast enough not to obstruct the pusher during start-up. For the helmsman, however, it is all the more important that he has good fine motor skills and body control, because it is often millimetre work to get the sled into the ideal lane and keep it there.
A very good body and balance feeling is therefore indispensable. It is also very important to keep the bob on the ground with your own body weight. The higher the mass, the more the bob can accelerate.
In a one-man bob, the solo athlete must perform all these tasks alone. He is responsible for pushing his bob optimally and must also master the demanding process of boarding himself.
He must then steer the bob in the fairway and keep it in the optimal lane. He does not only achieve this by manual steering, but also by shifting his own weight. At the same time, he must build up and maintain great body tension so that the sports equipment remains on the ground even in difficult situations.
In the two-man bob, the front driver takes over the steering, while the rear driver is the main pusher. At the beginning of the race, both athletes push the bobsled, but the handlebars get into the vehicle first when it has started a certain run.
When the pushing process is finished, the handlebar takes over the most important task, while the pusher only supplies the mass necessary for acceleration and tries to compensate for possible driving errors.
The four-man bob has a helmsman and three pushers. Most important are the two rear pushers, which are the last to get into the moving bob. The second man also takes over important tasks in controlling the sled, but the main responsibility lies with the athlete sitting in front.