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Olympic History: What Makes a Good Bobsledder?

Published: February 19, 2018

Common qualities of bobsledders probably haven’t changed much since the Post wrote about them in 1949: they are mechanically minded, levelheaded, and usually live near a sledding course. In 1949, there was only one course in the U.S.—at Lake Placid—so that’s where all the best American bobsledders came from.

The other common characteristic was being male. In 1940, a woman—Katherine Dewey—drove a four-man sled to victory in the A.A.U. Championship. She was the only woman in the competition, but her reign didn’t last long. “This pill was too bitter for some of the lads to swallow. The next winter Katharine was barred from racing.”

Bobsledding has changed in significant ways since 1950: the sleds are more enclosed, weight limits have been imposed, and women now compete in one- and two-person bobsleigh.

One thing that has remained true 70 years later is this: “For all its clocklike techniques, bobsled racing still contains a large element of luck. One bad break—one bad heat—and the race goes out the window.”

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