08/12/2022

A Short History of the Bobsleigh

Everyone who has ever watched a bobsleigh competition thinks that this is one of the most adrenaline-rising sports that ever existed. However, not many people know that much about its history. This is why in this article, we’ll take a quick look at the history of bobsleigh.

The Beginnings

The first bobsleigh club was founded in 1897 in Switzerland. After this event, bobsleigh became extremely popular in almost all European ski resorts or pretty much anywhere that there were snow and ice surfaces. 

However, the first sleds were made out of wood only to soon be replaced with steel ones. The name “bobsleds” was derived from the fact that the team had to bob back and forth to gain more speed. 

IBSF was founded in 1923, and one year after the first bobsleigh competition was held at the Winter Olympics. This was a four-man race, while the two-man race was added in 1932 when the Olympic Games took place in the United States. In the beginning, this activity was only reserved for the upper class who had the means to travel to ski resorts. 

The Decade That Changed Everything

Bobsledding as we know it today was formed around the 1950s when many athletes showed interest in this discipline. Additionally, it was then when the foundation was set for bobsledding on artificial ice tracks. 

Before the invention of the World Cup, the athletes showed their bobsleigh skills only during the Olympics. But after the World Cup started in the ‘80s, there were more and more opportunities to compete. And until this day, the most successful nations have been Germany and Switzerland. Mostly because bobsledding is a regular activity in their countries which are surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The other two countries that also had plenty of success in these competitions have been Canada, Italy, and Austria.

One major event in bobsleigh history had been the Winter Olympics in 1998. They took place in Japan, and it was the first time that two gold medals were given in this discipline. This event had also been special due to two bronze medals and 25 nations that competed in four-men races. 

Recent History

The 1990s brought another major change to this sport. It was then when the first women competitors joined bobsleigh events in North America and Europe. And in 1999 women were official participants of bobsleigh events at the Winter Olympics.

And in the mid-80s it was proposed that the construction of bobsleds become standardized. This cut the costs for manufacturing and made it easier for the competitors to get their equipment. 

The sport continued to grow when different nations decided to build various venues for bobsleigh competitions. In 1999 a combined track was built at Lake Placid and in 2006 another venue was built on Cesana. The Winter Games that were held in Russia in 2014 had a sliding area called “Sanki”. The latest track is built in South Korea, and another one is expected for the next Winter Olympics in China.