Let the Women Drive

Bobsledding goes coed this year, with the U.S. paced by two legstrong gals who may do something completely different: win

Jan 2, 2002
Outside Magazine
Cheat Sheet

Davidson and Racine
World Cup Medals:

12 gold, six silver, two bronze
Look For Them On: February 19
Breakout Moment: Davidson tried out for bobsled after answering a want ad in the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Bobsled Girls > Bobsled World Cup, February 2001

UPDATE: The Bobsled Girls have split up!

"WE'VE BOTH developed nice plump rear ends—we call them our power packs," says Jen Davidson, who at five-foot-eleven is the taller half of the American team favored to ride the chute February 19 at Park City in the Olympic debut of women's bobsled. The label is fitting—ever since the earliest Norwegian bob racers zoomed down icy roads in the 1880s, powerful glutes and quads have been essential for muscling the sport's massive sleds down the start ramp and then, once driver and brakeman have leaped aboard, as ballast for their near-90-mph plunge.
"Every pound we put on our body gives us an advantage," adds Jean Racine, 24, a ten-year veteran of competitive bobsledding and luge who will pilot the 374-pound fiberglass-and-steel sled while Davidson, a former track star from Layton, Utah, rides the brake. Every pound, that is, until the scale reads 770, the limit set by the sport's governing Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing for the combined weight of riders plus sled. "The key is to have the lightest sled with the fastest, strongest athletes," explains Bob Cuneo, who designs the rigs for the U.S. Bobsled Federation.

After spending the past eight months packing on muscle via endless weight training and Mega Whey protein shakes, the self-described "Bobsled Girls" are poised to wear this nation's first Olympic bobsled medals in 46 years. Their odds are good: Though the Swiss and Germans have dominated men's bob for most of this century, Americans have done well on the women's side of the sport—a staple of the World Cup circuit since 1995. In the four years they've competed together, Davidson and Racine have medaled 20 times.

Whatever the outcome in Park City, these two clearly know how to sell themselves. In addition to TV-commercial deals struck with Visa and NBC, they scored the ultimate athletic coup in December by gracing the fronts of three cereal boxes (Crispix, plus two kinds of Mini-Wheats). Yet Davidson, 29, does admit that her marketable bobsled physique has one drawback: With glutes and quads that can squat 300 pounds, she can no longer buy pants without a drawstring waist.

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