When most people picture a bobsled from the Winter Olympics or the movie “Cool Runnings,” they usually see four people, or at least two, forcefully pushing a sled and then jumping into it before racing down an icy track.
But in Monobob, an event making its Olympic debut at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, one sled does it all: push, jump and ride. And at this year’s Games, all participants will be women.
Men have, of course, been racing the bobsleigh track at the Olympics since 1924, first in four-man sleds and since 1932 also in two-man teams. It wasn’t until 2002 that women were allowed a two-person event, and since then athletes and their supporters have campaigned for a second.
But instead of adding the four-person sled as a women’s medal event, the International Olympic Committee has opted for monobob instead. (Men will continue to race in two- and four-person sleds only.)
The event is one of seven additions to the 2022 Olympic program and the only one of the group to be contested by women only.
Also added are freestyle skiing, big air jumping events for men and women (big air was already scheduled for snowboarders) and a handful of mixed-gender classifications: a snowboardcross relay, a short track relay, and team events in ski jumping and freestyle skiing. antennas.
However, Monobob can get the most attention. The event appealed to the IOC in many ways, but mainly because of its competitive balance. The cost of entry for the smaller sleds — a monobob might cost about $15,000, while a two-person costs more $70,000 — and the need for just one driver has democratized the results: Brazil and Jamaica won medals at last season’s World Cup, for and a Cambodian recorded a top-10 finish.
In addition, all monobob sleds will come from the same manufacturer, offsetting the technological advantages that rich countries have long enjoyed. In all the years of bobsleigh at the Games, only Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Italy have won more than one gold medal.
Elana Meyers Taylor, an accomplished American racing driver, has two silvers and one bronze at three Olympics in two-person bobsleigh. Now she hopes to add a solo medal to her trophy cabinet. While no American is yet fully qualified for the team, Meyers Taylor is in a strong position to return to the Games in the new event.
The US also has a strong contender in Kaillie Humphries, the gold medalist for Canada at the last two Olympics, and the reigning world champion in monobob and two-woman. She became a US citizen this week.
Drivers often learn in a monobob, which can be used as a development sled, but Meyers Taylor had never ridden one until last January.
“There is a steep learning curve,” she said. “They can slip, they just don’t have the weight, the speed. They don’t stick to the curb like a two man does. They are a lot more skittish.”
The monobobs complete a bobsled run that is about two seconds slower than a two-person bob. “The less weight you have, the slower you go,” said Meyers Taylor.
Although each team has a sled from the same manufacturer, they are not identical. Aerodynamics should remain the same, but teams can make small adjustments to gain an edge. “It’s how you fix them, how you put on the bob,” Meyers Taylor said.
Meyers Taylor and other international sledders recently spent three weeks testing the track in Beijing where the Olympic Games will take place. There were only two crashes in that time, Meyers Taylor said.
“But the track is challenging to be fast,” she said. “It is a very difficult circuit. You can lose a lot of time on the first two corners.”
Despite being a potential medal contender in both women’s events, Meyers Taylor said she had mixed feelings about the addition of Monobob. When asked about her favorite event, she answered firmly: “Viermans. I have a huge preference for four-man.”
“We were fighting for four men,” said Meyers Taylor. “Part of the draw of bobsleigh is the team aspect of it.”
New Olympic Events at the Beijing 2022 Games
bobsleigh: Mono bob for women
Freestyle skiing: Mixed Team Antennas
Freestyle skiing: Big air gentlemen
Freestyle skiing: Big air for women
Short track speed skating: Mixed team relay
Ski jumping: Mixed team event
Snowboarding: Mixed team snowboard cross