Sochi: BMW-Designed Bobsled Helps U.S. Two-Man Team Win First Medal Since 1952

 Todd Bissonette

Steve Holcomb and Steven Langton ended a decades-long drought for the two-man U.S. bobsled team, nabbing the bronze medal at the Sanki Sliding Center Monday night at the Sochi Winter Olympics -- the first U.S. medal in the sport since 1952.

While the victory was a personal triumph for Holcomb, who reversed a chronic eye condition that had forced him to drive partially by feel, it was also a validation for the radical design of the sled, which yielded two U.S. podium sweeps in the World Cup competition last year.

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Designed by Michael Scully, creative director of BMW's DesignWorks USA, the sled makes use of lightweight, robust materials such as carbon fiber that is replacing steel in BMW's cars.

The durability of the sleds was proven Sunday when Elana Meyers' USA-1 sled, damaged in a head-on collision with a wall after crossing the finish line, finished first in two heats after repairs.

Scully and his team took the bobsled through 149 iterations -- and real-world testing at the U.S. bobsled facility in Lake Placid, N.Y. -- before signing off on the final design. A former race car driver, Scully's main consideration was to make the sleds faster by making them smaller, to reduce aerodynamic drag, and quieting the sleds' tendency to chatter and bounce violently across the ice by redistributing weight.

"I've raced a lot of cars myself, and I know as a driver if you can focus on or eliminate unnecessary inputs, then you can be more precise -- to quiet that chaos, it would be great if we could do that," Scully told The Hollywood Reporter before the Olympics. 

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Scully's design was constrained by Olympic regulations that specify maximum and minimum weights for bobsleds and the basic design of the steering mechanism. 

"When you have a limited amount of elements, that means those elements have to be optimized really, really well," Scully said. "Your solutions have to be absolutely spot-on."

The women's bobsled competition will be held Tuesday.

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