Bobsleigh teams consist of a pilot in the women's monobob event; a brakeman and a pilot in the two-man and two-woman events; and a brakeman, a pilot and two crewmen (pushers) in the four-man race. From a standing start, the crew pushes the sled in unison up to 50 metres. This distance is typically covered in less than six seconds, and speeds of over 40 km/h are reached before the crew climbs into the sled. Once the crew is on board after the start, the pilot steers the sled through twisting, high-speed turns and straight lines, where top speeds can reach over 150km/h.
Skeleton, which takes place on the same track or “run” as the bobsleigh, starts with a running “push” phase, after which the athlete dives onto the sled and slides down the track. Athletes lie prone, facing downhill, with their arms at their sides, steering the skeleton with movements of their body.
There are currently four bobsleigh events. Men and women compete in two-man/two-woman events, while men also compete in the four-man and women in the monobob events. In skeleton there are only two events, individual men and individual women.
In both bobsleigh and skeleton, the competition is held over two days, with two runs staged on each day. The four runs are timed to 0.01 seconds, and the fastest total time determines the winner. If two teams end the competition in a tie, they are awarded the same ranking.
There is a definite advantage to being among the first down the track while the ice is still fresh and not rough and cut up. Therefore, to determine which sliders get the best start positions, the starting order for the first heat of the Olympic Winter Games is based on the world rankings. The remaining start orders are based on the ranking after the preceding heat.