Behind the New Olympic Beamers

February 03, 2014

It's been 78 years since the U.S. has taken Olympic gold in the two-man bobsled. The U.S. came out on top in the Games' first two-woman event, in 2002, but have had to settle for silver and bronze since then.

To give American drivers such as Steve Holcomb and Elana Meyers the best chance of winning in Sochi, the U.S. bobsled federation decided to revamp its sleds with help from a company known as much for luxury as for speed: BMW. The company's creative design director, Michael Scully—no stranger to winter sports, having once been a Burton-sponsored snowboard racer—spent more than two years working with U.S. coaches and athletes to create sleeker, more efficient two-man and two-woman sleds.

The differences between the new sleds and the older models include lighter materials, better aerodynamics and more effective weight distribution. Neither the athletes nor the engineers will reveal much more. Says Scully, "Those are things that we need to respect from a confidentiality standpoint, because at the end of the day what makes the sled faster will ultimately prove to be the best tool for the athletes."

Slap Happy Lugers

The Wild Slide

One of the quirkier new events will be the luge relay, in which a female slider, a male slider and a men's pair ride down the track in succession. Each one must sit up and slap an overhead timing pad (aptly described by the Los Angeles Times as "uvula-shaped") at the bottom to open the start gate for the next relay member. It sounds kooky, but this season the event has proved to be a fan favorite, with crashes, false starts and unpredictable finishes.

How It Works

Team Figure Skating

A surefire TV hit among the 12 new events in Sochi is team figure skating, which debuts on Feb. 6 and continues for three nights of prime-time kiss-and-cry. The event pits 10 teams in short and long programs. Teams earn 10 points for first, nine for second and so on in each program. Lineups are TBA, and teams can change up to two entries for the long program, but here's how the numbers might add up.

MEN WOMEN PAIRS ICE DANCING TOTAL
18 points PATRICK CHAN + 16 KAETLYN OSMOND + 17 MEAGAN DUHAMEL & ERIC RADFORD + 18 TESSA VIRTUE & SCOTT MOIR = Canada 69 points
18 EVGENI PLUSHENKO + 18 JULIA LIPNITSKAIA + 19 TATIANA VOLOSOZHAR & MAXIM TRANKOV + 13 EKATERINA BOBROVA & DMITRI SOLOVIEV = Russia 68 points
13 JEREMY ABBOTT + 12 GRACIE GOLD + 15 MARISSA CASTELLI & SIMON SHNAPIR + 20 MERYL DAVIS & CHARLIE WHITE + USA 60 points
PHOTOCOURTESY OF BMW OF NORTH AMERICA (U.S. BOBSLED) PHOTOGENE SWEENEY JR./GETTY IMAGES (LUGE) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ABBOTT) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (GOLD) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (DAVIS) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WHITE) PHOTOSTEVEN SENNE/AP (CASTELLI) PHOTOSTEVEN SENNE/AP (SHNAPIR) PHOTOIVAN SEKRETAREV/AP (PLUSHENKO) PHOTODAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES (LIPNITSKAIA) PHOTODAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES (OSMOND) PHOTODAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES (VIRTUE) PHOTODAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES (MOIR) PHOTOKOKI NAGAHAMA/GETTY IMAGES (VOLOSOZHAR) PHOTOKOKI NAGAHAMA/GETTY IMAGES (TRANKOV) TWO PHOTOSOLEG NIKISHIN/GETTY IMAGES (BOBROVA AND SOLOVIEV) PHOTOANDRE RINGUETTE/GETTY IMAGES (CHAN) PHOTOANDRE RINGUETTE/GETTY IMAGES (DUHAMEL) PHOTOANDRE RINGUETTE/GETTY IMAGES (RADFORD)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)