One woman. One sled. No excuses.

One woman. One sled. No excuses.


You push, you drive, you do it all in monobob

By Cynthia Appiah for CBC Sports
February 26, 2020
 

There’s a brand new Olympic Winter Sport coming to Beijing in 2022.

Monobob is a crazy fast mixture of technique and raw power. I need a more modest way to say this, but the fact is, a certain Canadian woman happens to be tearing up the track, setting records left, right, and center in the new sport. Ahem. 

Women’s bobsleigh as a contested event is relatively new. Men’s bob has been part of the Olympic action since the first Winter games, Chamonix 1924.  It wouldn’t be until 2002 in Salt Lake City that women got to compete in one of the most exciting sliding sports. (I might be biased, but that’s a fact). Ever since, two-women bobsleigh had been the only event women were allowed to compete in.

 
 

That all changed in summer of 2018, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced the addition of women’s Monobob, a new sliding event in the Winter Olympic program.

Like the two-women version, monobob athletes race against the clock down an icy waterslide-like track. The obvious difference is that instead of two in the sled, monobob puts a single athlete in the role of pilot and brakeman. The IBSF has standardized the new event by giving each athlete the same sled and the same runners. With the equipment levelling the field, monobob is a true test of each bobsledder’s capability.

 

Switching between the two disciplines can be quite a task. The set up between the two-woman and monobob events might look similar, but in monobob you are your own pilot, your own brakeman, even your own runner polishing crew. Standing at the top of the hill alone is a unique feeling. You are on your own time. All of the start coordination that we spend hours working on with our brakemen is set aside now.

Pushing any bobsleigh is no small feat. This is even more pronounced in monobob. It’s amazing to think that women are pushing, at minimum mass, 165kg sleds. That’s 363 lbs in the old measure. It certainly is not easy moving such a heavy sled from a dead standstill. There is a lot of technique in just getting it started. But once you do, I think it feels fairly easy.

 

Granted, this is me saying this, and my biggest assets are my power and strength. My force manifests in  massive push times. In a sport measured in 1/100th of seconds, any advantages at the start will only increase down the track. I have always prided myself on how powerful I am, and so pushing a sled by myself wasn’t a difficult transition for me.

Cynthia Appiah's explosive starts are perhaps the strongest part of her monobob performance. (Submitted by Cynthia Appiah) Cynthia Appiah's explosive starts are perhaps the strongest part of her monobob performance. (Submitted by Cynthia Appiah)

Once you hop into the front seat, the rush is unbeatable. Sitting in the back of a sled with your head tucked between your legs can get old pretty quickly, so seeing where you are going and being able to control the sled is a pretty neat experience. You can’t let that that rush distract you for too long though: you need to be mentally focused at all times. You literally have the reigns of the sled in your hands and it’s entirely up to you to get down that track as fast as possible. You can easily hit 110 km/h in a monobob sled, but any mistake made down the track, any wall tap or skid out of a bend, will slow you down badly.

The monobob is much more finicky to drive and control than the two woman sled. Losing that brakeman removes a substantial stabilizing force. The reduced weight in the back of the sled is a game changer. You need near perfection to make it down the track fast.

My own development as a bobsleigh and monobob pilot has been, frankly, impressive. I hold the start and track record on each of the tracks that I’ve competed on. And with more time in the seat, that record will expand. I am no robot, either. Last summer, I reached out to a Canadian designer to work on the spikes that we wear. 

 
 

Til then, my Adidas were a plain white and black design with orange soles.  But I wanted to signal a little piece of my Ghanaian heritage and my love of Canada’s multiculturalism. We worked together on a design that includes red and white maple leaves on one side and a Ghanaian flag on the other.

I couldn’t be prouder to showcase them each race day.

(Top image by Getty images; middle image courtesy Viesturs Lacis/Rekords)

The Cynthia Appiah edition

Q: The best book you've  read? 
A: Then They Came For Me by Mazier Behari and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Q: Must-listen podcast? 
A:  My Favorite Murder  (I'm a true crime junkie)

Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Every storm eventually runs out of rain.

Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: "Uuuuuh, yeah. Sure!" The made-for-TV movie on how Cynthia Appiah just happened to be at the right place for the next opportunity in her life.

Q: Word or phrase you over use? 
A: 'Anywho', 'fam', or 'Okay, but for real though' .

Q: Skill you wish you had? 
A: I wish I could walk in high heels (no joke. it's a skill I have yet to master)...or how to draw.   

Q: Something no one would guess about you? 
A: That I love musicals and classical music.

Q: What scares you? 
A: A lot! Bugs, heights, the dark, drowning, being buried alive, being burned at the stake (I swear, I'm not a witch from Salem, Massachusetts!).

Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: Oprah, Kwame Nkrumah, Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, Trevor Noah, John Oliver.

Q: What makes you cry, every time? 
A: The thought of the struggles my parents went through and still go through to give my siblings the best life ever. I'm forever grateful and don't know if I'll ever adequately repay them.

Q: Next goal?
A: Going to the Olympics and going on Jeopardy!

 

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