What Makes a Good Bobsledding Team?

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The sport of bobsledding requires three main elements—a bobsled, a track, and a team. Naturally, because bobsled tracks are so few and far between, it can be a tough sport to break into. And even if you happen to live near a good track, it still takes a substantial investment of time and money to get a world-class bobsled and to keep it in good working order.

But even if you can clear these hurdles, the hardest thing about bobsledding—putting together a good team—still remains. As difficult as it is to get a nice sled in working order, finding two or four (depending whether it’s two-person or four-person bobsledding) competent and focused riders is extremely prohibitive.
Nerve and physical strength
First of all, every bobsledder needs to have power, a strong sense of balance, and bravery. Hurdling down that hill at high speed is frightening, and riders need to have a strong stomach and equally strong nerves. Crashes happen frequently; they are an essential part of training, especially in the early stages, and bobsledders have to be willing to put everything on the line to get the fastest time possible. Sure, they get to wear helmets, and modern sleds are safer than before, but this isn’t much comfort in that frightening moment when your sled banks too high on a curve and starts to tip over.

But in addition to a strong attitude, bobsledders have to be powerful. Getting a good speed starts with getting a strong push at the top of the track. Sleds can weigh hundreds of pounds, which means that, even though they’re on ice, they need a powerful push to get going. That’s why so many of the bobsledders you see in the Olympics are large and powerful guys. Many are former wrestlers or American football players. They have to be great all-around athletes, and training involves lots of running, pulling, lifting, and jumping.
The other important point about putting together a good bobsledding team is that everyone has to get along well, and they all have to be committed. It’s impossible to underestimate the value of team unity in a sport like this, where everyone combines their efforts so closely. Bobsled teams have a leader, and that person has to be in charge in many respects, but the other members—whether it’s just one person or three people—have to be fully committed. Becoming competitive in bobsledding takes years of practice, and all team members have to be in it to win it.

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