When USA Bobsled/Skeleton athletes hurtle down the track at speeds topping 80 miles per hour at the 2022 Winter Olympics, they’ll be relying on the science of aerodynamics—and the power of adhesion. Adhesive tape is an essential part of a bobsled and skeleton athlete’s sled and gear.
Because they train and compete in harsh winter environments, these elite athletes require an adhesive solution that performs at extreme temperatures. USA Bobsled/Skeleton (USABS) depends on an acrylic coated cloth tape from tesa that offers high abrasion resistance and water resistance.*
tesa first sponsored the team during the 2010-2011 season, and tesa tape has been in USABS toolkits ever since. Each athlete uses up to six rolls per year on each of their sleds, and many of them have two or three sleds as part of their standard equipment.
“USA Skeleton athletes are constantly working on their sleds, opening them up, and making repairs,” says Tuffy Latour, USA Skeleton head coach. “tesa has been the only tape to really stand up to the abuse in all types of weather conditions. tesa products have been a vital part of our success over the past 10 years. To say that tesa tape holds our team together would be an understatement. It’s the ultimate all-purpose adhesive tape in bobsled and skeleton toolboxes.”
Used in a wide range of applications across various industries, the adhesive tape chosen by USABS is based on a 145-mesh woven rayon fabric backing and a natural rubber adhesive. The cloth tape is conformable and features excellent abrasion resistance and high tensile strength, as well as high adhesiveness to multiple, even rough surfaces.
The tape’s high tack and short dwell time ensure a fast application and reliable adhesion shortly after application. It can be hand-torn torn with precise and straight edges, both longitudinally and horizontally.
“At tesa, we fully understand the importance of adhesion, especially when it’s on full display for the world to see in this year’s Winter Olympics,” says Daniel Germain, North American regional president for tesa tape, inc. “We know that USABS needs the best quality tape, and tesa is thrilled to provide that to the team.”
USA Skeleton athletes use adhesive tape to secure padding to the top of the skeleton sled. It’s also used by both bobsled and skeleton athletes to fix rips in speedsuits, repair start spikes, and for aerodynamic purposes. As an official team sponsor, tesa provides USABS with the highly specialized adhesive tape to ensure that results on the ice runs can be continually improved over time.
“tesa tape is an integral part of our sleds,” says three-time Olympian John Daly. “It holds the sled padding in place and helps optimize aerodynamic flow. We also use it on our helmets—and any open areas—to cut down on aerodynamic drag, which can help us gain valuable hundredths of a second and get onto the podium.”
A skeleton sled carries an athlete face-down along a frozen track. According to Daly, all competitive skeleton sled frames are made of steel. The sled body is attached to runners with two long strips of stainless steel that sit on the bottom of either side of the sled. This is the only part of the sled that comes into contact with the ice.
Each runner is mounted on the sled and can be bowed to decrease the total area that touches the ice. This helps the athlete steer the sled; by bowing the runner, the athlete can make the sled easier or harder to steer depending on the ice conditions. A thin foam mat on the metal frame is the only thing that provides the athletes with a limited amount of comfort while racing down the frozen track.
“The foam mat has to be connected to the sled as tightly as possible,” Latour says. “That’s where tesa tape comes into play. And, in addition to attaching the foam mat to their sleds, the tape provides the athletes with an added advantage: it protects them against sharp edges.”
Latour adds that skeleton athletes use the acrylic-coated cloth tape for making continual adjustments and repairs to their sleds. “Skeleton pilots use the tear-resistant tape to increase speed and improve their hold on the sled,” he says. “They mask the underbody and the awkwardly shaped edges of the sled, improving aerodynamics.”
tesa launched its first technical adhesive tape in 1896. Dealing with elements such as fire, water, air—and ice—always presents new challenges. But whether in electronic devices, cars, buildings, airplanes, or even the Winter Olympics, technical adhesive tapes are taking on increasingly important functions in many industries and in complex processes around the world.
“tesa is proud to support USA Bobsled/Skeleton athletes,” says Jim Smith, director of Marketing for tesa North America. “We’re even more pleased that our adhesive technology is helping the bobsled and skeleton teams be more successful. At tesa, adhesion defines us. Our self-adhesive products and technologies solve complex problems across a wide variety of industries and help our customers succeed every day. Collaborating with USABS reflects our commitment to creating the bonds that drive people and the world forward.”
*tesa® 4651 premium acrylic coated colored cloth tape