The Olympics is a time of wonder. We get to see the most skilled athletes in the entire world do things we can only dream of. Like triple axles, halfpipes, and — when it comes to bobsledding — humans barreling down icy tracks in what look like giant metal bullets.
And anyone who’s ever seen bobsledding in action has undoubtedly thought one simple thing: How fast do bobsledders actually go, anyway?
As it turns out, they go pretty dang fast. The bobsled, also known as the bobsleigh, reaches an average top speed of 83 mph (135 kmph), according to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics website. That’s faster than most people have ever driven a car (the highest speed limit in the United States is in Texas at 85 mph speed limit, fyi). The world record for the fastest speed on a bobsled is 125 mph, according to Teams on Tour.
If you’re not familiar with bobsledding, here’s how it works.
As explained on the PyeongChang Winter Olympics website, a group of either one, two, or four athletes rides a bobsled down an ice track, with one person controlling a steering rope, and another controlling the brakes (on a monosled, one person does it all). On a four-person team, the middle two athletes help steer the sled by shifting their weight. The track is anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 meters long, typically sloped somewhere between eight percent and 15 percent, and with many sharp curves. And in case you were wondering — yes, it is dangerous.
Interestingly, the sport is only a little more than a century old.
Bobsledding became an official sport in Switzerland in the late 1800s, and it has appeared in the Winter Olympics since the first games in 1924. Back then, bobsledding was only for groups of four athletes (either men or women). Now, there are separate teams for four-man bobsleigh, two-man bobsleigh, and two-women bobsleigh.
When it comes to this year’s bobsledding competition, all eyes are on the Nigerian women’s bobsledding team. This is the first time in history that any athletes from Nigeria have made it to the Winter Olympics in any sport, according to the Independent. So make sure to keep an eye out for Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omega when you tune into the competition. And if you’re wondering how to stream the games, click here for the scoop.