Not just Cool Runnings – everything you ever wanted to know about the sport of bobsled

“Jamaica, we have a bobsled team!” These immortal words from the movie Cool Runnings went a long way toward putting bobsled on the map as a global sport. In fact, the sport in which teams make timed runs down a narrow, twisting track of ice has been a fixture of the Winter Olympics for some time now. However, bobsled is a year-round discipline and involves a lot of hard work and dedication by those involved in it. It’s easy to take up, but incredibly hard to master.

Now, you probably want to find out more about bobsled, right? Specifically, whether it’s worthwhile checking it out. Well, in that case, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re going to take a look at some of the cool facts you always wanted to know about bobsled.

The history and name

Originating in Switzerland, the sport began as a form of sledding, which tourists would partake in for recreational purposes. This helped improve the growth of tourism in the Swiss town of St. Moritz, where it originated. The name bobsled, or bobsleigh, is believed to have come about in the early years of the sport. It’s thought to have been a result of the fact that early racers often bobbed their heads back and forth to try to help the sled move forward more quickly. There is also the fact that bobsled or bobsleigh are other names for a large sled, and this is predominantly what is used in the sport.

The Olympics

The sport made its anticipated debut during the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. It started out as a four-man event, with a pairs event being added eight years later for the 1932 Olympics. Incredibly, it wasn’t until the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA, that women got to take part in the sport! Fittingly, the event was won by the American pairing of Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers. Both men and women have competed in subsequent Winter Olympics events ever since. The bobsleds careen down the tracks at speeds of up to 90 mph, making this a somewhat dangerous event.

Jamaica has a bobsled team!

Okay, so in the movie, it was something of a joke because Jamaica is a Caribbean country with an incredibly hot climate, the polar (no pun intended) opposite of what you would want for bobsled action. But, strangely enough, Jamaica actually does have a real-life bobsled team. They first gained fame during their Olympic debut at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Alberta, Canada, where they achieved underdog status. Since then the team has competed in five Winter Olympic, missing out on the games only twice. The team’s experiences in the 1988 Winter Olympics served as loose inspiration for Cool Runnings.

Bobsled is one of the highlights of the Winter Olympic schedule. Anybody who has ever tuned in will know that this is one of the coolest events (see what we did there?!). This is a sport that is best-known thanks to the movie Cool Runnings but is also a fascinating and important event in its own right.