Q: What is bobsled?
Bobsledding — or bobsleigh, in Olympic-speak — is one of three sliding sports in the Games. (Luge and skeleton are the others.)
In bobsled, athletes start by running and pushing a sled (weighing as much as 463 pounds) up to speed and then jumping inside. The pilot navigates the sled through icy, banked turns at speeds of more than 80 mph. When the team reaches the bottom, the brakeman brings the sled to a halt. Each team gets four runs; the fastest aggregate time determines the winner.
Bobsled was invented in Switzerland in the 19th century and made its Olympic debut in 1924 with four-man bobsled. Germany (including totals from East and West Germany) has the most medals in the sport (40). The United States has won 24 medals (, but with significant gaps. The Americans went 46 years without a any bobsled medal (1956-2002), and the four-man team’s drought extended to 62-year before ending in Vancouver.
Q: What are the medal events? Where will they be held?
There are three events: two-man, women’s (two-person) and four-man (technically mixed gender, but male-dominated). All PyeongChang sliding events will take place at the Alpensia Sliding Centre. The bobsled track is about 0.85 miles (about 1,367 meters) long, with an average slope of 9.48 percent.
Q: How do they train?
“They basically train like Olympic sprinters, but with more weight training,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton representative Kristen Gowdy. Many bobsledders — including former Georgetown track star Chris Kinney — used to be competitive runners.
Q: Is “Cool Runnings,” the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1998 Games, at all accurate?
“No. Not even a little bit,” Gowdy said. Picking up a sled and carrying it down the track is nearly impossible, she added, and bobsledders don’t practice in bathtubs.
Q: Whom should I watch?
The United States has a shot at multiple medals in PyeongChang, especially on the women’s side. Sochi medalists Elana Meyers Taylor (silver) and Jamie Greubel Poser (bronze) are both having strong World Cup seasons.
The U.S. men lost pilot and 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb, who died unexpectedly last year at 37. The 12-man squad includes members of the military — Chris Fogt is an Army captain; Nathan Weber is a Green Beret — and former NFL player Sam McGuffie. The relatively young team — only four have Olympic experience — has an outside shot at a medal.
On the women’s side, the U.S. sled will have to go through Canadian Kaillie Humphries, who is seeking her third straight gold. For the men, Germany appears the team to beat.
The Nigerian women, though not expected to contend, will be a sentimental favorite as the first athletes from their country to compete in an Olympics and the first African team to qualify in bobsled.
Russia’s Alexandr Zubkov won two golds on home ice in Sochi four years ago. But the IOC banned him from the 2018 Games as part of its response to Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal, and the Court of Arbitration of Sport did not overturn that ruling. He won’t compete in PyeongChang.
Q: When should I watch?
All events will air on NBC and NBC Sports Network, but only one — the four-man competition — will be shown live. Here is a schedule of the finals, with television coverage in parentheses (all times Eastern). The live telecast is in bold. Races are also available by live-streaming at NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC app. Daily TV listings can be found here.
Feb. 19: Two-man, 6:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 8-11:30 p.m.)
Feb. 21: Women’s, 6:40 a.m. (NBCSN, 7:10-10:45 a.m.; NBC, 8-11 p.m.)
Feb. 24: Four-man, 7:30 p.m. (NBC, 8-11 p.m.)
Read more on the Olympics: