The influx of bobsledders from track and field may give off the impression that the sport is easy. Far from it.
Take this video published on the International Olympic Committee’s YouTube channel. U.S. Olympic champion four-man bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb explains the art of his sport.
It begins with the start, a calculated frenzy that, if performed poorly, can dash medal hopes before the first turn on a track.
“It’s pretty cool to watch, to see these giant men running, jumping, getting in the sled, sitting down without scratching each other too much,” Holcomb said. “All within about five seconds.”
Holcomb has been an elite international driver for the better part of a decade. With every run on tracks across the globe, he gains experience and an edge over less seasoned competition.
“It takes years and years and years to finally get to a track where you can go an be fast every single run,” Holcomb said.
The best drivers know tracks inside and out and can recite where the turns are off the top of their head. Holcomb said the trick to bobsledding isn’t reacting but anticipating while sledding 90 miles per hour.
“I know exactly what’s going to happen,” said Holcomb, boosted before his 2010 Olympic gold by eye surgery to improve 20-500 vision. “I’m already preparing ahead of time. … Once you get to a certain point, if you make a mistake and you try to correct it, you’re going so fast that it’s way back there.”
Holcomb, the first U.S. Olympic men’s bobsled champion since 1948, will attempt to defend his four-man title in Sochi in February. The bobsled World Cup season begins Nov. 30 in Calgary.