Can you believe we are just a few months away from the Winter Games in Pyeongchang? The 2018 Olympics will be preceded by a number of competitions and qualifying events, some of which are happening right here in Park City. This month elite bobsled and skeleton athletes from all over the world will converge on the Utah Olympic Park for the IBSF Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup on November 17-18 and the IBSF Bobsled and Skeleton North America's Cup November 29-30.
You may have watched Cool Runnings about the famous Jamaican bobsled team, but how much do you actually know about these Olympic sports? Here's a quick intro to bobsled and skeleton plus details on how you can get a first hand view of elite athletes in action at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP).
Bobsleigh and Skeleton 101
Both bobsleigh, or bobsled, and skeleton were developed in St. Mortiz, Switzerland when English tourists started taking winter holidays there. Bobsled, skeleton, and luge (the other sliding sport) events are considered the most dangerous events at the Olympics.
Bobsleigh competitions are divided into two and four person events. Each two person team has a pilot and a brakeman while the four person team includes two additional crew members, or pushers. In competition, racers begin from a standing start and push the sled up to 50 meters before loading into the sled. Most team will cover the distance in less than six seconds, pushing the sled roughly 24 m.p.h. while doing so. Bobsled have a steering mechanism to control where the sled goes. Bobsled was first introduced to the Olympics in 1928 and has been an even every year since (except 1960). Women were were first allowed to compete in this sport on the Olympic level at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, events of which were held here in Park City at the Utah Olympic Park.
Skeleton takes place on the same track, a.k.a. "run" as the bobsled and begins with a 40 meter push start. Athletes lie on their stomachs, facing downhill, with their arms tucked alongside their body. Unlike bobsled, skeleton is an individual sport. Racers must angle their bodies to control how the sled moves. Skeleton made early Olympic appearances in 1928 and 1948, but it was only in 2002 that the sport became a permanent fixture.
Here are a few quick terms to brush up on specific to sled sports.
- Brakeman: The last person to enter the sled at the start and the person responsible for stopping the sled at the end of the run.
- Bumpers or Bunks: Fins located on the front and back of the sled, used by crew members to get quickly into the bobsled.
- Cornering: Ability of a bobsled crew to maintain a high rate of speed in a curve and not crash.
- Driver: The very front person in the bobsled, who is the first person to jump into the bobsled at the start and steers the bobsled down the course
- G-Force: Or gravitational force. G-force pushes down on the sleds as they move around the track, the force is at its strongest while going around turns.
- Kreisel: A corner with an arc of 270 degrees or more.
- Runner gauge: A tool that is used by bobsled race officials to measure the thickness of a bobsled’s runners. If a sled’s runners are too thin, it is disqualified.
- Runners: The solid pieces of steel the sled slides on
- Sanding: One of the critical steps taken to prepare a sled for a run. Each member on a four-person bobsled team is responsible for sanding one runner.
- Sliding: How bobsledders refer to what they do.
Get In On All The Action at the Utah Olympic Park
November 17 and 18: BMW IBSF Bobsled + Skeleton World Cup
You have a chance to witness athletes from more than 20 countries competing two days. Friday's events kick-off with the Women's Skeleton Race at noon, followed by the day one of the Four Man Bobsled Race at 3 p.m., and the Women's Bobsled Race at 6 p.m. Saturday's competition also begins at noon with the Men's Skeleton Race and concludes with day two of the Four Man Bobsled Race at 4 p.m.
In between all the action, make sure to check out some of the family-friendly track-side activities, including free access to the Summit Course, Canyon Course, and Drop Tower from 12 to 8 p.m. on both competition days. There will also be face painting from 3 to 5 p.m. on Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Don't worry about getting hungry, you can fuel up with decadent creations at Waffle Love, starting with the Chicken Avocado Tartine and finishing with sweets decked out in dulce de leche, Nutella, berries, and whip cream. Or spice things up with Lola's Street Café for burgers, falafel, tacos, and more.
November 29 & 30: IBSF Bobsled + Skeleton North America's Cup
Schedule for this event is still TBD, but it will be free and open to the general public.
Let's get out there and support our athletes! Make sure to stay tuned for the opening of winter activities at the UOP when you can experience what it's like to get in a bobsled and race around the track for yourself!