Bobsled Isn't As Dangerous As It Looks, But That's Really Not Saying Much
I'll be the first to admit that a lot of the sports that are featured during the Winter Olympics seemingly don't make much sense. One such event that perplexes people as to how it can be a sport is bobsled. You might just think that it's glorified sledding, but there is actually a ton of skill that is required of these sled riders to speed across a lengthly ice course at crazy high speeds. So how dangerous is bobsled, exactly? It's clearly no walk in the park.
According to the official PyeongChang 2018 website, when bobsledding "The pressure an athlete feels while going around a curve is nearly four times the gravity" (of the Earth, I assume) which I can only imagine is extremely intense. Not to mention that the speed of a given bobsled team can reach as high as 125 mph. Oh yeah, and the weight of each sled can range from 400 to 500 pounds.
Because bobsledding is as fast as it is, the athletes are pretty prone to crashing into the walls of the course if they make a steering mistake. Most recently a two man bobsled team from Britain suffered a major crash while competing in a World Cup event where the sled flipped over and ejected one of the athletes from the sled. Although the two made it out of that crash unscathed, the damage could have been much worse.
All these elements combined don't exactly scream "safe" to me.
So let's recap here: you have a massive, heavy sled hurling across an ice luge course at extremely high speeds. Not to mention that the pilot has to expertly steer the sled past 14 to 22 curves at various angles, some of which seem to appear directly perpendicular to the ground. The goal of the pilot is to keep the sled as controlled as possible through those twists and turns, keeping it as straight on the track as possible to clock in the fastest possible finish time.
On the other hand, some say that bobsled isn't as dangerous as its sledding counterparts, skeleton and luge. While bobsled is the fastest event of the three (which alone makes it pretty dangerous in its own right), some would say that bobsled is the actually least dangerous of the three. With bobsled there is a entire sled protecting the team members should anything go wrong. With the stripped-down luge and skeleton, there is nothing protecting the athletes but a helmet. So the risk should one suffer a crash while flying down the course is much, much greater.
In order to train for their bobsledding events, athletes combine heavy weightlifting and high-intensity workouts, such as sprints and bodyweight exercises. Combining both ensure that the bobsledder has enough strength to keep the heavy sled under control, yet keep the lower body agile and powerful.
Because there's a lot that goes into the sport.
Teams that compete in bobsledding are comprised of either two or four persons, and require the teams to push off their sleds and then jump into them as they glide across a track that can range anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 meters long.
There are two crucial members of any bobsledding team: the pilot and the brakeman. The pilot is responsible for driving the sled via an inner steering rope, while the brakeman stops the sled once it crosses the finish line. While those are the only two members of the two person team, the four person team adds two "pushmen," adding extra force and momentum for that sled to reach higher speeds. Which is a little nerve-wracking if you ask me.
So basically, it's not the safest sport out there. Being able to control a sled as heavy as the ones in bobsled and knowing how to steer it is no small feat. These athletes train extremely hard to make it to the Olympics and compete against the best of the best — so, uh, stay safe out there, everyone.