How to watch bobsled (2-person) at the Winter Olympics: A guide to understanding and appreciating the sport

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Bobsledding finds itself in the national spotlight exactly once every four years – right about now, when competitors from around the world go down icy tracks at the Winter Olympics. They’ll do that again in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of 2018’s Winter Games.

There are two types of bobsledding in the Olympic program – two-person and four-person. We’re here to talk about the two-sledder variety, which has both a men’s and women’s competition. This will be the 20th Games for two-man bobsledding and the fifth for two-women, which joined the program for the 2002 games in Utah.

The United States has only fared OK in two-person bobsledding. The men have never won gold in the event, while the women have medaled each year but not taken gold since the event’s inaugural year in the women’s program. Germany’s won the last three golds in the men’s competition, and Canada has topped the women’s field the last two times.

What time and how can I watch?

The two-man competition begins on Feb. 18, when there are two preliminary runs at 6:05 a.m. ET and 7:30 a.m. ET. You can stream those here. The medal heats begin at 6:15 a.m. ET the next day, on Feb. 19. You can stream those here, on NBC’s website. You can also live stream NBC, NBCSN, and the Olympic Channel coverage via Fubo.TV on your computer or mobile devices.

The two-women competition begins on Feb. 20, with two runs at 6:05 a.m. ET. You can stream those here. The medal heats begin at 6:40 a.m. on Feb. 21 and can be streamed here.

Why should I quit my job and become a lifelong devotee of two-person bobsledding?

Because bobsledding is cool as hell. That’s not even a Cool Runnings joke, though the 1993 cult classic about the Jamaican bobsled team that competed at the 1988 games in Calgary is an amazing story. Related: the Jamaican women are in the field this year, as is a Nigerian team.

What are the rules of bobsledding? Follow up: What is the weirdest rule of bobsledding?

In this event, it’s pretty simple: Two people get into a sled and ride it down an icy track, trying to get there in a faster time than the opposition. (They don’t go at the same time, because the track is thin and can only accommodate one sled at a time, reasonably.)

The weirdest rule? Probably this one:

“The maximum weight for the sled including the crew, runners and other equipment: 390kg (860 pounds) for 2-man bobsled, 630kg (1,389 pounds) for 4-man bobsled and 325kg (717 pounds) for women’s bobsled.”

What can I talk about to impress the bobsled enthusiast in my life?

If talking about Cool Runnings fails, you can talk about how the team from some country should really consider making some changes to its bobsled lineup. You can sound smart by saying that teams can make substitutions of anyone except the pilot, who’s the one riding up front.

Whose jersey should I buy?

Get yourself a nice, full-body compression suit with the colors of the German flag on it. The Germans are the world’s greatest bobsledding people, generally speaking.

What is the sport’s AMERICA RATING?

A respectable yet restrained 7/10. Americans have won seven bobsledding golds, more than any country except Germany and Switzerland.

What’s the best GIF I can watch from bobsledding?