Bobsleigh is a winter sport invented by the Swiss in the late 1860s in which teams make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled.
19th century beginnings
The sport of bobsleigh didn't begin until the late 19th century when the Swiss attached two skeleton sleds together and added a steering mechanism to make a toboggan. A chassis was added to give protection to wealthy tourists and the world's first bobsleigh club was founded in St Moritz, Switzerland in 1897.
By the 1950s, the critical importance of the start had been recognized and athletes with explosive strength from other sports were drawn to bobsledding. In 1952, a critical rule change limiting the total weight of crew and sled ended the era of the super heavyweight bobsledder and rebalanced the sport as an athletic contest.
Back and forth
In its original form, the first races used skeleton sleds made of wood. However, they were soon replaced by steel sleds that came to be known as bobsleighs because of the way crews bobbed back and forth to increase their speed at the start. Today, the world's top teams train year-round and compete mostly on artificial ice tracks in sleek high-tech sleds made of fibreglass and steel.
In 1924, a four-man race took place at the first ever Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. A two-man event was added at the 1932 Lake Placid Games in a format that has remained to the present. The first women's bobsleigh event - the two-woman bobsled - was held in 2002.