What Are The Top Bobsled Skills? (Explained)

Americans refer to it as bobsled, while the majority of the world calls the sport bobsleigh. Nevertheless, bobsledding is a fast-paced sport that depends on a precise balancing act between skill and physics. I know you’re wondering, do I need specific skills to be a bobsledder? 

Key points

  • Bobsled athletes must have a set of skills to create a winning team. 
  • Every crew member must know their role and perform it flawlessly for the slide to be perfect. 
  • In addition, the bobsledding crew must have a proper strategy.
  • The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation is bobsleigh’s international governing body. 
  • You can enjoy bobsledding in areas like Salt Lake City and Lake Placid. 

This post will help you understand some of the nitty gritties of bobsled as a sport. For instance, you’ll learn the skills involved in bobsledding, the roles of everyone in a bobsled, and the strategies athletes employ to win bobsled tournaments. Ready? Let’s dig in!

What skill is involved in bobsledding?

A bobsled crew brings together athletes from diverse backgrounds with various skills. Here are the skills the different players should have to enable the team to compete at the highest level:

What are the top Bobsled Skills?

Bobsled driver skills

The best sledges drivers are people who grew up in the snow country with a background in the sport. In addition, the driver has to be an athlete with bobsledding experience. For instance, they should have participated in the other roles. 

The driver is trying to find the fastest line down the course. If he makes a mistake, the crew has to realize it and adjust. You have to know when to give up runner pressure. And it all happens in fractions of a second. – said Jim Herberich, Winchester, Mass.

The experience helps the pilot to navigate the track using the fastest route. For instance, they know how not to go too high on the turns. 

Bobsled pushers skills

When it comes to pushers, agility, strength, and speed are critical. In this sense, Olympic teams prefer going for lower-hanging fruits by recruiting stars from summer games. Lolo Jones (hurdler) and Lauryn Williams (sprinters) are excellent examples. 

The two were recruited as pushers, and they claimed silver medals. So, countries like Jamaica, which have a notable absence of snow but an abundance of world-class short-track athletes, thrive in bobsledding. 

Additionally, college football players also make good pushers because they have the prerequisite strength and speed. Also, it would be challenging for the team to move the bob without traction on the ice. In this sense, players in international competitions such as Olympic bobsledders wear spiked shoes. 

The spiked shoes give them better traction, something football players understand better. This makes them better placed to push the sledge to attain speeds to take it down the track. 

Bobsled brakeman skills

The brakeman sits at the back of the sledge and provides the pilot details to help with navigation. They must also push the sledge and jump in without interfering with its gained momentum. 

In this sense, the brakeman should be as strong and agile as the rest of the crew. In addition, they should be brave and have an excellent sense of balance. They also have to have great coordination skills. 

What makes bobsledding hard?

There are several sliding sports, most of which are part of Olympic games that take place on an ice track. However, some factors make bobsledding tough. 

What does everyone do in a bobsled?

You need three things to race a bobsled: a track, a bobsled, and a team. The men’s bobsled team can have two or four athletes who have specific roles. On the other hand, women’s crews have two-person, and mono bob teams were allowed in the 2022 winter Olympics

Mono bob

A mono bob is a single-person bob. These bobs were introduced in international competitions to encourage youth to participate in the sport. There was a women’s mono bob event at the winter competition 2022. 

Two-man bobsled

The two-man bobsled consists of two athletes: the pilot/driver and the brakeman. The driver’s role is to steer the bob and control it around the track. 


The driver’s objective is to stick to the middle of the track because hitting the edges could slow down the bob and waste precious time. Fortunately, the steering mechanism is pretty straightforward, made of bolts and ropes. 

Pulling the rope to the right will steer the bob to the right while tugging it to the left will drive it to the left. What about the brakeman?


First, the brakeman helps to push the bob to give the initial momentum it needs to go down the track. After that, they don’t just sit at the bob’s rear, waiting until the end to go to work. 

They also provide the driver with feedback on the course to help with further attempts. Then, when the bob approaches the finish line, the brakeman throws the brakes to bring the bobsled to a stop gradually.  

Four-man bobsled

A four-man bobsleigh has a driver, a brakeman, and two additional athletes known as pushers. The pushers normally occupy the two middle seats. Their main role is to help push the bob to get it moving from a complete stop. 

They have to run as fast as possible and jump into the bob before reaching the track’s first curve. After that, they’ll also help to bring the bobsled back to the top once they finish the race, as witnessed in Olympics teams. If you haven’t seen Cool Runnings, a film documenting the story about the Jamaican bobsled team, you should definitely do so. 

What is the strategy in a bobsled?

A good bobsledding strategy involves three things: 


You must have a good sledge with excellent runners (metal blades that make contact with the ice on the bobsled track).

A good start

The bobsled must get as much momentum as possible to give it an excellent start. This is why winter Olympics games teams have strong and fast athletes as the pushers. For instance, the average weight of an international competition bob pusher is 225 pounds (102 kilograms).  

A two-man bobsled weighs around 400 pounds (181 kilograms), and a four-man is about 500 pounds (227 kilograms), so you need strong people to push it at high speed. So, ensure your team has the necessary personnel to do this job. 

An experienced pilot and brakeman

For a team to win an Olympic medal, the pilot has to navigate down the course on the fastest lines possible. This implies that the pilot should know the bob’s steering system well. 

On the other hand, the brakeman should memorize the track to know the appropriate time to pull the brakes. In addition, he has to stay down during the run to be more aerodynamic. 

What forces act on a bobsled?

We’ve already established that there is a mono bob, two-person bob, and four-person bob. However, all three have the same basic components. Every sledge has: 

  • A steel frame
  • A hull made of fibreglass also referred to as a cowling (it is closed in the front and open at the back)
  • Movable front steel runners 
  • Fixed rear steel runners 
  • Collapsible push-bars (for the pilot and crew members)
  •  Fixed push-bars for the brakeman
  • A jagged brake on a lever (the only time it is used is when the sled has crossed over the line)
  • A steering system 
  • Antenna

Physics determines the speed of the bobsleigh. The teams must ensure they maximize acceleration during the start and minimize forces slowing down the sledge. In this regard, here are the forces acting on the sledge: 

Gravity and energy

Gravity is the key force acting on the sledge as it moves down the course. The competition starts at a higher place and lets the sledges fall to a lower height. Scientifically, national team players reach fast speeds by converting gravitational potential energy to kinetic energy. 

Both energies increase as weight increases. As a result, a four-man sledge has more energy than the others. The team that won gold in the 2018 winter Olympics won by a margin of 0.026 seconds. 


Tracks approved by the International Olympic committee are around one mile long (1.6 kilometres), which athletes cover in less than a minute. The difference between the gold medal and the silver medal is usually very small.

Every Olympic bobsledder would tell you that you need to be as aerodynamic as possible to win. As the bobsleigh is sliding down the track, it meets some resistance from air particles which causes the sledge to lose some momentum.  

Athletes lie as low as possible to reduce resistance. Any poor body positioning causes the athlete to be less aerodynamic.  

How fast do bobsleds go?

Just so you know, bobsledding is not for the faint-hearted! The sledges usually slide down the track at speeds exceeding 90 miles per hour. Consequently, skeleton, luge, and bobsledding are giving the Olympic winter games the reputation of being dangerous. 

All three sports usually reach extremely high speeds. In addition, bobsledding is regarded as the fastest of the three ice sports. This could be a scary feat for younger athletes, but it is worthwhile! 

What is the point of bobsledding?

Bobsledding has been among the popular winter games for a while. However, in the past few years, its popularity has increased. Modern bobsleigh crews usually compete to cover a downhill track in the fastest times. Most competitions take an average of two runs. 

Therefore, most athletes take part in bobsledding competitions for honours. Competing in top-rated competitions such as the world cup and Olympic winter games and winning gold is every athlete’s dream!

Besides competition, some do it for fun. You can visit popular tracks such as Lake Placid and Park City to enjoy the experience. 

This is an excellent place to start if you are an upcoming athlete. But, they don’t offer unlimited access; you have to meet certain requirements. Check the requirements before visiting. 

Why is bobsledding an Olympic sport?

Bobsledding is one of the ice sports in the Winter Olympic Games. Men’s bobsled has been participating in the Winter Olympics since the first Olympics in 1924. On the other hand, women’s events joined the Olympics in 2002. 

For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognize a sport, it should have a governing body. Bobsledding is governed by The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF), originally known as Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de tobogganing.   

Besides that, men in 75 countries and four continents must widely practice the sport. In addition, women from 40 countries and three continents must practice the sport. Furthermore, the sport must increase the value and appeal of the Olympic games.  

Bobsledding is popular in over 75 countries spread across over four continents. Additionally, it is one of the most appealing ice sports in the world. 

Facts about bobsledding

Here are some interesting facts about bobsledding you’ll find fascinating:

  • Caspar Badrutt built the first bobsled track in 1870. The track is still in use today and has hosted two Olympic games. 
  • Bobsledding is fatal, especially when the sleds crash. 
  • Athletes can add metal weights to the front of the sleds to increase speeds. 
  • Competitive bobsleigh competitions are measured in hundredths of seconds. As a result, the smallest errors can affect the final time. 

Final Thoughts 

Bobsledding is a sport like other sports. You can take part in it competitively or for fun. Just remember that it takes strength to get the sledges moving. Therefore, ensure your team is agile enough. 

Additionally, it can be dangerous if the sledges crash. In this sense, ensure you wear protective gear and get training before hitting the track. Fortunately, you know the bobsled skills you need to get started!

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