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Team USA sledding‘s secret (medal) weapon at Sochi Olympics

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For the first time in 12 years, Team USA has won medals in the Sochi Olympics in all three sledding sports: bobsled, skeleton, and luge.

With the sledding events ending on Sunday, the United States Olympic Committee and the two national federations can thank the high-tech equipment provided by corporate sponsors and partners that contributed to these prized podium finishes.

USA sledders won six medals: three bobsled, two skeleton, and one luge. These sledders needed every advantage they could get, for medal wins were often won or lost by mere fractions of a second.

In the wake of Team USA’s overall record-setting success at the Vancouver Olympics, and compliments of an improved economy, corporations opened-up their coffers to fund tech-based improvements to these sleds whose secretive features are kept under lock and key.

Bobsled Bombshell

Team USA won three medals in the two-man events at the Sanki Sliding Center in the Sochi Olympics. Vancouver Olympics medalists Steve Holcomb (bronze) and Elana Meyers (silver), as well as Jamie Greubel (bronze) piloted their sleds to the podium.

The auto manufacturer BMW, the official mobility partner of the USOC, connected with the US Bobsled Team in December, 2012 to offer its vehicle design, engineering, and production prowess to create a state-of-the-art two-man bobsled.

Through two years of development and testing, in partnership with the Boblsled & Skeleton Federation, BMW produced a smaller and lightweight sled made of carbon fiber, and which featured an aerodynamic design, and an improved steering mechanism.

In recent months, all three drivers worked with BMW technicians to tweak the most speed out of these sleds to best prepare for these Winter 2014 Olympics.

Holcomb, who barely won the bronze by a mere .03 seconds after four competitive heats, commended his sled’s performance. “Bobsledding is about a great push, great start, and great equipment. Fortunately it all came together today.”

Skeleton Skill Supplement

Two headfirst athletes won medals in skeleton. While silver medaling Noelle Pikus-Pace relied on a sled designed by her husband, bronze medalist Matt Antoine utilized a sled created by a unique collaboration of four boutique design and manufacturing firms.

Ever since the Vancouver Olympics, where no American skeletoners won medals, the leader ProStar Engineering partnered with American firms Machintek Corporation, deBotech, and Carpenter Technology Corporation to develop a new sled that promoted greater speed and improved navigation. Strong yet lightweight, this sleek sled design was welcomed by Antoine and others, including Kate Uhlaender who finished fourth at these Winter Olympics.

“The U.S. program is proud to have sleds made in the USA, and our technology partners have put us in contention for the medals in Sochi 2014,” said Tuffy Latour, skeleton head coach in a Physics.org article. “It’s exciting to have such a world class team behind our athletes.”

Lucky Luge

Erin Hamlin redeemed a disappointing outcome at the Vancouver Winter Games by navigating her luge to a bronze medal in Sochi. By using a newly improved sled, she became the first American luger to ever win a medal in a singles event, winning the bronze by just .43 seconds..

Dow, a long-time U.S. Luge Federation partner, upped the ante in time for Sochi by re-engineering the luge sleds. Resting on extensive research, manufacturing and testing, engineers worked with athletes to construct a sled with improved components and composite material. Of most benefit were the redesigned runners that promoted faster times – much needed to achieve speeds on the slower Sochi Olympics track.

Subscribe to all my Olympics articles as the Sochi Olympics wraps-up, and beyond.

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