With the Sochi Olympics now a little more than a year away, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is finally set to debut what it hopes could be a key to American medal hopes.
A two-man sled -- designed by BMW of North America -- will make its first run in a World Cup race Saturday at Igls, Austria. A pair of Olympic four-man gold medalists, Steven Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz, will be in the sled when it debuts.
If the debut goes well, it's likely that the sled also will be in the U.S. mix for this season's upcoming world championships at St. Moritz, Switzerland.
"The results of our testing thus far have been promising, but the true test of a bobsled's speed is determined in competition," U.S. men's bobsled coach Brian Shimer said. "The team couldn't wait to get this sled on the ice, so we bumped up its debut to Igls and we're looking forward to seeing it in action. We need to test it under race conditions to see what improvements to make for next season."
The USBSF has hoped throughout the process that this sled could be a major boost to medal hopes for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
That's been BMW's goal as well.
BMW Group also has a sponsorship arrangement with the U.S. Olympic Committee through the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and the company also is an official partner for the USBSF, U.S. Speedskating, USA Swimming and USA Track & Field. BMW's talks about this project with the USBSF go back to at least March 2011, with the sides exchanging ideas about how the technology of building fast cars can translate into building fast sleds.
On Saturday, their idea goes public.
"After more than a yearlong development process, we're thrilled for the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation to finally race this bobsled," said Michael Scully, the creative director for BMW Group DesignworksUSA. He called the sled's design, "sleeker, lighter and we hope faster: essentially a BMW on ice. We're anxious to see how it performs against Team USA's competitors."
The sled passed a technical inspection on Friday.
While the U.S. has had gold-medal moments in women's and four-man bobsledding on the Olympic stage since 2002, it hasn't won the two-man gold at the Winter Games showcase since 1936.