Along with curling, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined and speed skating, bobsleigh is one of the original Winter Olympic sports, with a four-man bobsleigh race being held at the first ever Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924. Four years later, a two-man event was added to the programme for the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid, while the first women’s race – the two-woman event – debuted at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Each of the three events on the Olympic programme consists of four heats, held on two consecutive days. The final standings are determined by the total time over the four runs, with the winner being the sled with the lowest aggregate time.
Athletes to watch in Sochi
In Sochi, athletes will race down the track at the Sanki Sliding Centre, where Switzerland’s Beat Hefti and Thomas Lamparter have already tasted success, having won the two-man event at the Sochi World Cup event in February 2013. The home crowd is sure to get behind Alexander Zubkov as he aims to lead the Russian four-man and two-man teams to Olympic success, although he will face stiff competition from the USA team, led by Steven Holcomb, four-man world champions Germany, led by Maximilian Arndt, and the Canadian bob of Lyndon Rush.
In the women’s events, attention is sure to focus on Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Chelsea Valois as they look to follow up their overall World Cup title with an Olympic gold medal. Germany, led by Sandra Prokoff-Kiriasis, are also once again likely to challenge for a place on the podium.
Germany’s Kevin Kuske and André Lange stand head and shoulders above their rivals in the history of Olympic bobsleigh, with each boasting four gold medals and one silver. Lange, the most successful bob pilot of all time, first teamed up with Kuske to win the four-man title in 2002, alongside teammates Carsten Embach and Enrico Kühn.
Four years later, Lange and Kuske struck four-man gold again, this time with René Hoppe and Martin Putze, while the duo also combined to win the two-man Olympic title. In Vancouver, the pair successfully defended their two-man title, but had to settle for silver in the four-man event.
Italy’s Eugenio Monti is also regarded as one of the legends of the sport, having won six Olympic medals during his career, including two gold medals at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble.
Monti is also widely remembered for the sportsmanship he showed in 1964, when he lent British rivals Tony Nash and Robin Dixon a bolt from his own sled when theirs had broken. The Britons would go on to win the two-man gold medal, while Monti and teammate Sergio Siorpaes finished third.
In the two-woman event, Germany’s Sandra Prokoff-Kiriasis has challenged for medals at all three Games in which the event has been contested, winning silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and finishing fourth in 2010.
Watch the bobsleigh four men highlights from Vancoluver 2010: