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What are the differences between bobsled, luge and skeleton?

(Photos by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images, Richard Heathcote/Getty Images and Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images For IBSF)

Bobsled, luge and skeleton — they’re all high-speed sports at the Winter Olympics. All three require a sled and a steep, icy track that winds down a mountainside. But just how do these three sled sports compare? Hop aboard as we uncover the differences between them.

The sled

Jamaican bobsled team at Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


Looks like a capsule and has steel runners on the bottom of it. The steering is done with a special rope system. And there are brakes found inside the sled as well.





Alex Gough of Canada competing in Women's Luge competition.


A flat sled with bars on either side for the racer to hold on to as they lie down. Racers steer by angling their body on the track’s twists and turns. The sled has no brakes.

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)



Frank Rommel of Germany competes in the men's skeleton


A flat, rectangular sled with steel runners underneath. It has no brakes or steering system.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)






Number of racers

Either 2 or 4 racers


Bobsled has...

Either 1 or 2 racers



Luge has...

Just one racer



Skeleton has...


How do racers start?


Bobsled: Racers start running along the ice track while pushing the sled. Eventually, the crew leaps in and heads down the track. The front racer controls the steering, while the rider in back is responsible for the brakes.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images For IBSF)




Athlete is grabbing steel handles at the start of the track.


While sitting on the sled feet-first, the first racer grabs hold of steel handles on the side of the track. The athlete rocks back and forth and then launches themselves forward onto the track. Using their hands, the racer pushes themselves forward along the ice for a short distance. Then they lie on their back and whip down the course. This is the only one of the three sports that starts with the athlete already on the sled.

(Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Racer running along beside the skeleton sled at the start of the track.


A lone racer runs alongside the sled and jumps onto it headfirst. Then the athlete zips down the track in that position — with his or her chin barely off the surface of the ice.

(Photo by JOHANN GRODER/AFP/Getty Images)





Its top speed (Spoiler alert: They’re all very fast!)

150 kilometres per hour


Bobsled can go up to...

140 kilometres per hour



Luge can go up to...

130 kilometres per hour


Skeleton can go up to...


When was it invented?

Bobsleigh - Olympics 1936



In the late 19th century in Switzerland. Two skeleton sleds were attached together, along with a steering system. Then a shell was added to make the sport safer.

(Photo by STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

AUSTRIA - JANUARY 18: WM - Zweisitzer/Herren Igls





In the 1500s in Norway. But at first, the sport took place on hills. The first luge tracks weren’t built until 300 years later.

(Photo by Bongarts/Getty Images)

circa 1925: A skeleton tobogganist on the Cresta run.




In the mid-19th century in Switzerland. Legend has it that British soldiers were sledding down a ski track in the Swiss town of St. Moritz when one of the men decided to try and beat everyone’s times by racing headfirst.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


How did it get its name?



It's from the fact that the first bobsled racers bobbed their heads back and forth to try and increase the speed of the sled.




It’s the French word for “sled.”




Some thought the sled looked like a skeleton and it’s said that’s how the sport got its name. But others think the term skeleton comes from people incorrectly pronouncing the Norwegian word “kjaelke,” which means “sled.”


When did it first become an Olympic event?



Bobsled became an Olympic event in 1924.




Luge became an Olympic event in 1964.




Skeleton became an Olympic event at St. Moritz in 1928 and was included when the Games returned to St. Moritz in 1948.

After the 1948 Olympics Skeleton was dropped, but reappeared again as a permanent event at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games.