Bobsledding, luge and skeleton are very similar sports. They can even race on the same track. Bobsledding uses a two- or four-person bob and starts with the athletes pushing the bob. A luge race starts when a single slider, who rides feet-first, pushes off from two bars. In skeleton races, a rider pushes his skeleton, or toboggan, down the starting section, then sides the rest of the way down the track headfirst.
Bobsledding began in 1877 in Davos, Switzerland, when people added a steering wheel to a normal sled. The first bobsledding club formed in 1897 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Most of the first bobsled runs were snow-covered roads, and for years it was a popular recreational sport, particularly for the wealthy. It had the sort of popularity that skiing has today. The sport's name comes from the way early teams bobbed their heads to try to gain more speed on straight portions of the run.
Bobsledding has been an Olympic event since the first Winter Olympic Games in 1932. At that time, the only competition was a four-man race. Two-man events were added in 1932. Only men competed at the Olympic level until the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, when two-woman teams began competing. The only Winter Olympic Games that have not included bobsledding were the 1960 games in Squaw Valley, California, when too few teams expressed interest in competing.
Until the 1950s, most bobsledders were big and brawny. But in 1952, new rules governing the maximum weight of a bobsled and its passengers went into effect. At that point, bobsledders became highly-trained athletes who were very strong but light enough to fit the rules' weight requirements. Teams from all over the world have competed in bobsledding, including those from countries known for their warm climates, like Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
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