Australia and Olympic Bobsleigh
Australia first competed in bobsleigh at Calgary 1988. There were two two-man teams and one four-man team. Australia has been represented at every Games since with the exception of Salt Lake 2002.
The best Australian two-man results were Jason Giobbi and Adam Barclay at Nagano 1998 and Jeremy Rolleston and Shane McKenzie at Torino 2006, who also placed 22nd. Justin McDonald, Glenn Carroll, Scott Walker and Adam Barclay achieved the best four-man result of 20th at Lillehammer 1994.
At Torino, Australia was represented for the first time ever in the women's event by Astrid Loch-Wilkinson and Kylie Reed who placed 14th. Loch-Wilkinson contested her second Games in Vancouver 2010 alongside teammate Cecilia McIntosh. In Vancouver there was also two two-man and one four-man squad in the men’s.
Bobsleigh is one of the high profile sports at the Winter Olympic Games - the ‘Formula One race on ice’ as it is known. The sport has been part of the official program since the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix 1924.
The first Olympic competition was a four or five-man event. In 1928 this was changed to a five-man, only to revert to a four man event at Lake Placid in 1932 when the two-man event was added to the program. Women's bobsleigh entered the program for the first time at Salt Lake 2002, with a women’s two-man event making its debut. In Torino the women’s two-man event increased from two heats to four heats held over two consecutive days.
During the last century technical regulations governing the design, weight, construction and dimensions of the bobsleigh have been introduced. In 1933 it was forbidden to heat the runners of sleds before competing and in 1947 competitors were forbidden from wearing shoes with “nails” in the soles to give them better grip at the start. Weight restrictions of crew members was also put in place after the 1952 Winter Olympics when the Germans won both gold medals with a combined crew weight of over 472.5kg in the four-man and 236.6kg in the two-man.
Bobsleigh consists of three events in the Olympic program; the male four-man and two-man and female two-man. Each event consists of four heats, held on two consecutive days. The four runs are timed to 0.01 seconds. The final standings are determined by the total time over the four runs; the winner is the sled with the lowest aggregate time. If two teams complete the competition in a tie, they are awarded the same place.
Since Torino, only the 20 best-ranked sleds will compete in the fourth run. Entries are limited to two sleds per nation. The starting order is decided according to the nation's rankings on the World Cup.
The athletes push the bobsleigh reaching speeds of about 40km/h before they jump onto it. Once the crew is loaded, the pilot steers the sled through twisting, high speed turns and straightaways where top speeds can reach over 130km/h. The success of a team hinges on the initial pushing phase, as well as the steering and the materials of the sled (the sled and blades). Maximum sled weight of the combined team and equipment is specified, and the temperature of the runners measured prior to the competition to deter warming. If the bobsleigh overturns, but all members of the team have passed the finish line inside it, the descent is considered valid.