Hey all! My name is John Macchione and I am a rookie Bobsled pilot. So basically I'm just an athletic crazy person. Originally from New Jersey, but moving out to Park City, Utah on January 1.

Proof

AMA!

Edit 1: I'm going to keep a running list of the basic info that people ask about to see if that helps.

  • Olympic hopeful for 2018, 2022, and 2026 Olympic Games

  • Brakeman are awesome brave souls

Edit 2: When I say ask me anything, I mean anything! No one asks how my day is going :(. Edit 2.1: Thanks /u/Burnt_Couch!

Edit 3: Someone asked how do we make money, and the truth is that we don't (at least through Bobsled). It is largely based on donations and sponsorships. If you would like to support me, this is my page I am collecting donations at

Edit 4: Here's some video of me piloting. I'm hoping to get a GoPro so I can give better footage, but until then these iPhone cameras will have to do. Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Edit 5: Time for me to get ready for track practice. I'll still be answering questions as long as people keep asking, so keep asking!!!

Edit 6: Back from practice!....does anyone have food? I basically am eating everything in my house. Ok, I'm actually eating a sweet potato, but close enough.

Edit 7: Good morning all! Apparently I'm still on the front page of /r/IAMA, so I'm still here! Keep asking questions!

Comments: 111 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

jbaldwin199115 karma

Is cool runnings your favorite movie?

jbmach311 karma

Yah mahn! (You know, and Star Wars). There were actually two Jamaicans at my drivers school. Really awesome guys!

idledrone663311 karma

Sanka! Are yah dead mon?

GunnieGraves6 karma

"Yah mon. I'm dead!"

jbmach38 karma

"Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! Cool Runnings!"

GunnieGraves3 karma

You wanna kiss my egg?

jbmach37 karma

I'm not kissing no egg.

GunnieGraves2 karma

It's official everyone. This guy fuckin rules!

jbmach32 karma

Haha :D You have me watching this now

WoodBoogerSpork5 karma

I gotta know. Do you ever drop a bomb on the guy behind you? Or does the suit sorta keep it bottled up?

jbmach39 karma

I haven't (yet), but apparently if you do it just sits there in his face because the air rushing over the sled just keeps it in place. Just another reason I'm glad to be a pilot and not a brakeman!

IlliterateBuffoon2 karma

Did you end up successfully finding a brakeman through /r/fitness?

jbmach33 karma

I had a few people initially interested, but no one was able to commit in the end. However I'm going to constantly be needing brakemen for practice so I will definitely be revisiting that!

And I promise I will take the picture with the shirt at the track when I go back! My brakeman and I forgot to take a few different pictures for people.

jesusFUCKINGchristYO1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach31 karma

Hahahaha. To be honest, I didn't forget. I did wear the shirt one day to specifically take the picture too! There was just so much learning and going on each day (plus we don't bring our phones with us to the top).

At training, you are constantly busy. Walk the track, load your sled on the truck, ride to the top top, unload truck, take the scabbards off, prepare sled, slide down, put scabbards on, load into truck, repeat repeat repeat.

jesusFUCKINGchristYO1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach32 karma

I used to believe that, but then look at what people do on here. /u/awildsketchappeared is a perfect example.

jesusFUCKINGchristYO2 karma

[deleted]

jbmach31 karma

Haha, fair enough! Thanks! It is such a blast!!!

Khoryos4 karma

How much actual piloting is involved in Bobsled?

I don't get the mechanics of it, it's always just looked like going down a slide - is there a rudder, or something?

jbmach36 karma

We use two D-rings attached to bungie cords to control the front two runners. There is a LOT of piloting involved. We're not steering the entire way through turns, so it is a lot of little steers (it is mostly get on the turn, stop here, ok, now start steering out here and ease up, ok, off here). It is nothing like driving a car. If you make a mistake, you need to hope you can fix it in the next turn or else you are going over or hitting the wall hard.

Edit: This video shows you a bit of steering, but unfortunately the pilot crashes

Khoryos3 karma

Awesome, thank you!

It always looked like the curve on the walls was there to do the turning - I take it it just makes it possible for you to make the turn at the speed you're doing?

jbmach33 karma

Exactly. If the turns were flat, we'd be screwed. If you don't turn, you'll end up diving really deep into the turn or hitting the ceiling. Neither one is good and both can easily lead to a crash.

wrapped_in_clingfilm3 karma

Can Reddit sponsor this guy and make him wear a stupid logo etc?

jbmach37 karma

I fully support this! Dogecoin anyone?

Edit: I had actually thought of this a few weeks ago (getting a Reddit sponsorship). If Reddit became my primary sponsor, we would name my sled The Snoosled

FastGrass2 karma

As an ambassador for reddit i approve this

jbmach32 karma

As an ambassador of /u/jbmach3, I approve your approving this.

Fossilbear3 karma

What's the best thing about Jamaica?

jbmach32 karma

The accent! I mean, come on. That may just be the best accent in the world.

reaugusa2 karma

Hello friend. What is the difference between the Utah site and the Lake Placid training site? I have stayed at the Lake Placid OTC a couple times for training in another sport but I'm curious as to why it's split? Why wouldn't you want everybody together?

jbmach31 karma

The Park City track is very similar to the European tracks while the Lake Placid track is extremely technical. It's also nice to have park city as an option since there aren't many jobs available near lake Placid. I do miss the LP OTC though. That place is awesome.

reaugusa2 karma

Interesting. If you're ever looking to get in to the summer games, come for a tryout with team handball. I'm a goalkeeper too!!!

jbmach31 karma

I'm definitely intrigued! I'd probably make a better forward than goalkeeper for handball though. Where can I get more info?

reaugusa2 karma

Check out usateamhandball.org We train in Auburn, Alabama. We have tryouts about every three months.

jbmach31 karma

Alright sweet! Once we hit April I'll look more into it!

thitmeo2 karma

Hey, so what do you do for a living? I was close to some people who trained for the 96 and 00 Summer Olympics (got oh so close, just not enough, 2nd place in trials races) and they basically had to have the coolest employers in the world to get all the time they needed.

jbmach31 karma

I'm a marketer. However since I'm moving to Utah I'm currently looking for a job (so, if you know anyone ;) ).

Worst case scenario I may start my own company (not the first time for me. I started a marketing consulting firm straight out of college which was a huge success).

Cool employers definitely helps! I pay a ridiculous amount of student loans, so income is very crucial!

Edit: I also trade stocks which has been going well so far this year!

thitmeo2 karma

I actually do know a guy who's looking to open a business in SLC. Send me a PM. Small world.

jbmach31 karma

Sweet! Just sent!

xAIRGUITARISTx2 karma

Have you ever met Curt Tomasevicz? I work with him, not that it's entirely relevant.

jbmach31 karma

Sadly no, but I would absolutely love to! The Night Train was such an incredible crew!!!

xAIRGUITARISTx2 karma

He's a great guy! Good luck with your training!

jbmach31 karma

Thanks!!!

themulethatkicked2 karma

  • Is there an increased risk of life threatening injuries in your sport as it looks extremely dangerous from what i've seen in videos?
  • Have you ever gone bobsledding whilst being drugged? Do you know anybody who has and can you describe the experience?

jbmach32 karma

Bobsled is very dangerous, and there is a decently high risk of concussion, however I wouldn't really consider much life threatening. Sure things can happen, but it isn't as dangerous as Skeleton or Luge. Each average crash is worse than an average skeleton or luge crash, but the extreme crashes aren't nearly as bad.

No I never have and I never will. That's just as bad a driving while drunk. Never ever do it.

anonymous71151 karma

Skeleton is actually safer than the other 2 sports, with luge being the most dangerous.

jbmach31 karma

For the most part yes. I've seen some people get knocked out cold while doing skellie though, so the bad ones can be bad.

adub8872 karma

How expensive is it to get fully into bobsledding?

jbmach31 karma

It depends what you mean by fully.

I can breakdown the equipment for you if that helps.

Shoes $400 Helmet $400 Sliding Suit $250 Program Costs $1500 Various travel, camps, and rental $10,000+ Apartment $9000 (renting a small apartment with friends) Miscellaneous equipment costs $2,000 USABS License $150

A 2-man sled can cost up to $55,000 and a 4-man sled is up to $90,000.

I know I'm forgetting stuff, but that is the basics of it

sprocket991 karma

Will a team/organization typically own the sled? Or is it on the athletes to buy it?

jbmach32 karma

The U.S. team owns the BMW sleds for World Cup racing, and then Park City and Lake Placid organizations own a bunch of lower quality sleds that the athletes rent. Once you raise enough money the athletes buy their own better quality sleds.

tjarko2 karma

Where do you start as a rookie? As far as I know the bob-sleigh runs are far in between and most of them are competition grade. Can a beginner go down slowly and it will be safe?

jbmach31 karma

For brakeman, attend one of the summer combines (Check the US bobsled website). If it is the winter, try to find a bobsled pilot, we're always looking for people to be brakeman during practice!

In the US there is only the Lake Placid, NY track and the Park City, UT track.

For pilot's school, we started at turn 6. Eventually we moved up. I ended up being the only one going from the very top (I moved up there the second to last day).

sharksgivethebestbjs2 karma

So turns. And turns in a bobsled. I've been racing stuff my whole life, cycling, cars, motorcycles, and all of the turning theory is, at it's most basic, the same (early apex for exit speed, late apex for entry speed, etc).

Now, when you're in a bobsled, obviously you know exactly what is coming several turns in advance, and can plan for that. What is the general theory regarding how to take the turns? Surely there are different approaches depending on the sections surrounding the corner?

jbmach31 karma

That's what I thought initially, but with Bobsled it is completely backwards. You actually don't want to take the apex. If you do, you end up hitting the wall and acting like a bobblehead toy.

Absolutely! Each turn is different so you do multiple track walks with a person who is experienced with the track. They show you where to start steering, when to stop etc. You also figure out what lines you take if you are either A. perfect B. Early or C. late. You end up memorizing the track, so much so that you can go through it perfectly in your head. You also learn to compare. For example, the way I steer turns 4, 11, and 14 at Park City are very similar, and 6 and 12 are similar (although those steers are a heck of a lot harder).

uberlad1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach30 karma

I wasn't a fan of Goosebumps. I was actually more into Animorphs, so my favorite book there was the one when they turn into whales and go and get something from a space ship stuck in the ocean.

No matter what you are doing, make sure you are happy. Money comes and goes, but you can't just replace a bad situation.

itstinksitellya1 karma

So glad I found this AMA in time! So many questions.

How does one get into this sport? It seems so obscure and expensive, that it seems catered to the upper-middle class. I assume bobsledders aren't born and raised in the sport, like basketball, baseball etc. How old were you when you started? Were you approached by a coach or sponsor because of perceived potential, or did you just say 'Hey, this looks like fun, I'm gonna do it!'?

I see you're aiming for the 2018 Olympics, where presumably there are no more than maybe 20 men's bobsledding spots available on the team (couple teams of 2, couple teams of 4, and alternates. Does that sound about right?). How many viable contenders are there for these spots in the whole country?

As a casual fan I kind of view the event as having 2 key elements; the running start, and the sledding down the course. Obviously at a world class level being strong at both is important, but is one MORE important than the other? Where does the majority of your training focus, or is it fairly equal?

I could go on all day, but I'll keep it there for now.

Thanks for doing this, and best of luck!

jbmach32 karma

You're absolutely right, it is a bit obscure and very expensive (as a pilot). However there are many brakeman who come from less-than-wealthy areas. It is essentially the job of the pilot to take care of the entire team, so it gets even more expensive for us.

I started training for it when I was 22, however I was a two-sport Divison 1 athlete and had gone to Nationals for a few different sports, so I already had many of the required skills. It was more of a "I think I have a real chance at this, plus it looks like a blast." I really approached it with 110% (If you're going to do something, don't half-ass it).

At most 12 men will be competing in 4-man and 6 in 2-man. They don't bring that many alternates. Pilots are really locked in once the choice is made, but they bring a few extra brakemen I believe.

I'd say there's 10-15 male pilots vying for those spots. With brakemen its a bit different because someone could come in a few months before the Olympics and just absolutely kill it.

They say each tenth of a second reduced at the start is three-tenths of a second reduced at the bottom. During the winter we aim to get as much ice time as possible, but that is impossible during the summer, so most of our training does end up being on the push start. They are both equally important (plus the brakemen only worry about the push start, so as I pilot I make sure my driving is perfect).

Keep going!!!!

itstinksitellya1 karma

Thx for the reply! (the 1/10th - 3/10th thing was a beautifully succinct way of putting it).

You wanted more, questions so here they are!

You said brakemen are only concerned with the start. I was under the impression they need to help guide the sled by leaning. Is that wrong? Are they literally just along for the ride? Is there any communication between you and the brakemen during a run, or is it simply too loud to yell back and forth?

Why did you pick bobsled instead of luge or skeleton? I saw in another post you don't currently have a brakeman. So why not go for an individual sport?

I assume you interact with luge/skeleton riders - so seriously, do you ever make fun of the two man luge team?!

How often does a bobsled team crash? What are the most common causes? Is it almost exclusively driver error that causes a crash? Have you ever crashed? I imagine it would be terrifying.

What are the biggest bobsledding events out there, excluding the olympics?

jbmach32 karma

Nope, way back when I think they used to lean (not sure), but now there is just so much speed and force that it is impossible. Their job is to push, get in, hold themselves as far down as they can, then brake at the end. It is WAY too loud to effectively communicate (especially when wearing helmets).

I was just trying to find a brakeman for the 7-day long camp. I'll also always be looking for brakemen for practices. Luge just seems too dangerous for me. I wanted to do Skeleton, but I'm too big :(

Oh absolutely! Everyone makes fun of them. Then again, in 4-man bobsled they're basically a giant cuddle puddle back there.

Not sure as to how often, but it does happen. During driver school there were 3 crashes. One by the Jamaican team, and 2 from a former skeleton athlete. I fortunately never crashed and don't plan to. It is 99.99% driver error. The only time it really wouldn't be is if the brakeman was doing something in the back that severely shifted the sled. They say the first time is scary, but it isn't nearly as bad as it looks.

The World Cup is the largest "league" there is. They just had their first race of the season in Lake Placid. That's where I aim to be in a few years. For the most part, that is the exact group of people that will compete in the Olympics.

Burnt_Couch1 karma

Hey man, how's your day going?

A few more questions for you...

  1. How many people do you have to beat out in order to make the Olympic team for 2018?

  2. How old are you?

  3. What kind of qualifications do you need to start doing this?

  4. How did you get into the program?

jbmach32 karma

My day is going well! How about you?

  1. In my mind there are three. Steve Holcomb, Nick Cunningham, and Codie Bascue. There are also a few great pilots below them. Across the country there are 10-15 pilots.

  2. I'm 23, about to be 24 on January 7th.

  3. General good health and be willing to spend what is required (I spent about $1500 to attend driving school).

  4. I answered that above here

Burnt_Couch1 karma

My day is going pretty well too! Thanks for the reply, looks interesting...I wonder if I could get involved in this in the next few years (I'm 20 now and fairly active).

Sounds neat!

jbmach31 karma

Absolutely man! I'm always looking for people to be my brakeman during practice, so if you come out to the park city area, hit me up!

Burnt_Couch2 karma

I uh...yeah, I'll do that. That sounds sweet!

jbmach32 karma

Just a fair warning, the beer on tap here sucks because of the 3.2% Mormon law, but you're 20 so that doesn't matter to you anyway.

Burnt_Couch1 karma

I'm possibly going to be out that way next winter so I'll be 21 then!

jbmach31 karma

Awesome! Make sure you get in touch with me then!!!

regrets_the_boneitis1 karma

Do you know d'angelo wilson? Hes just starting out too and i want an honest take on him. Being one of his former teammates in a different sport he was kinda an asshole. I hope hes different.

jbmach31 karma

I haven't actually met D'angelo yet. The path to the national team for pilots and brakeman is a bit different. As a brakeman, you can compete in the world cup your very first season (as many are this year).

For pilots, we need to spend time honing our skills, learning tracks, and then in 2-4 years we may get to compete at the world cup level (sometimes even longer than that).

regrets_the_boneitis1 karma

Cool. Good to know. I also wanted to ask how polarized are the people in the different event when you leave the track? As in i also know someone who is training for skeleton. Who you know him? After the day is over you you sit down with the lugers, skeletoneers (not sure the term??), and fellow bob sledders? Or just your own "kind?" As a former track and field athlete, we had runners, jumpers, and throwers. We may be in the same place training, but our groups did not mix very often.

jbmach31 karma

Bobsled and Skeleton hang out A LOT! I think I actually personally know more Skellies (what we call them) than Bobsledders.

Lugers are a bit different. We don't practice with them, so we never really meet them.

theKtrain1 karma

How many bobsledders are in the world?

jbmach31 karma

I'm going to go ahead and estimate for pilots. My best guess would probably be near 150 total, although I could be very off on that. At the World Cup, the most I've seen at one race is 33, however many of those pilots may be the only one for the country (S. Korea for example).

vancouverlizard1 karma

Some Olympic cities let tourists do Skeleton and Bobsled on their tracks. Is it safe?

jbmach31 karma

Absolutely!!!

penishelfie1 karma

What is your favorite aspect of doing what you do?

jbmach32 karma

Oh geeze. That's like asking a Redditor what their favorite cat picture is. Hmm, well I'm extremely competitive so there's that. However I'm going to say the most unique favorite aspect is the fact that you have these 1 or 3 guys behind you who completely trust you to not crash. It's a very odd feeling. I haven't flipped yet, but the one time I almost did, the only thing I could think was "I can NOT do this to Tommy!"

catsfive2 karma

That's like asking a Redditor what their favorite cat picture is

Well, it's not like you don't have lots and lots of options!

jbmach31 karma

Can I get framed versions of these?

Plyngntrffc1 karma

What are your thoughts on the current situation plaguing the IOC on countries dropping out of hosting future Olympics? What do you think might be a better solution?

jbmach31 karma

A part of me likes one of the most recent solutions to allow for multiple areas to host, however that sort of kills the whole "athlete's village" atmosphere that each Olympian looks to experience.

As great as the Olympics are for economic development, there is also huge costs involved as is obvious (The Park City Bobsled track cost over $25 million to build!). I think it may be time to start focusing on using the games as a place to truly bring everyone together, not to help grow an area. Too many venues go unused after the games.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert here. It seems to me that the IOC needs to bring in all its members and go through a bit of restructuring for implementation of future games, which it does look like they are doing to a certain extent.

Edit: English

Plyngntrffc0 karma

Russia's Olympics cost an estimated 50 BILLION dollars. They are rife with handouts and back channel deals. It would be neat to have 3 or 4 venues that are rotated in and out.

jbmach31 karma

That is a very interesting concept! It makes a lot of sense too, if you have it use it. Lake Placid held two Olympics (albeit about 50 years apart). I just wonder how the smaller countries that would never get a chance to host would feel.

Plyngntrffc0 karma

Their citizens would probably enjoy not having billions of their dollars spent on something with little to no return. But I can see that some disappointment may occur.

jbmach31 karma

Leaders too. The world cup did wonders for South Africa (although things are not looking too hot for Brazil).

catsfive0 karma

I read that Russia's "athlete village" ran out of condoms. Apparently, the athletes there have quite the raging libidos.

jbmach32 karma

You put a lot of attractive muscular people in a small area, what do you think is going to happen?

juicejug1 karma

I remember reading about this during the London Olympics. There are always massive quantities of condoms available in the athlete's village - Russia just dropped the ball on that one.

jbmach32 karma

Maybe they thought the winter athletes would be too cold.

Dragon_Toast_18801 karma

What made you decide to become a bobsled pilot?

jbmach31 karma

I was a cyclist before this (also was a goalkeeper and rower in college, and a lot of sports before/during that too). My top speed bombing down a mountain was 59.8 mph (I was ticked I didn't hit 60). I also have this really awesome ability to read lines and curves very well.

Also, Elana Meyers went to the same school as me, so that brought it up too.

Lastly, when I was 5 and at the 1996 Olympics, my dad got this awesome t-shirt for pushing a bobsled at a timed thing. He didn't make it, but I thought it was cool!

Dragon_Toast_18801 karma

How much does being a bobsled pilot pay?

jbmach32 karma

Negative a lot of money. That's why we are constantly looking for sponsors and donations. The only people who collect any money are those who go on tour, and that only comes out to about $500 per week for the World Cup competitors.

So I'm just going to drop this here

Richard-Rider1 karma

Is Cool Runnings an accurate representation of bobsledding?

jbmach30 karma

Yes and no.

  • It is freezing cold
  • It is very very intense for the brakeman
  • The pilots constantly study tracks and are the leaders of the team
  • If you don't check your bolts before a run and let one come loose, you deserve to crash
  • Bobsledders are extremely friendly! In fact, the move displayed that very poorly
  • Speed is absolutely crucial in the push

I also just want to add that even though we don't get paid and such, we are extremely lucky to have the facilities that we do. In Jamaica, they're lucky if they even have weights to lift. In the US, my biggest problem is income so that I can afford to live and train and chase my dream.

agentdarko1 karma

What's your attraction to the bobsled over the luge or skeleton?

jbmach32 karma

Luge just seems to dangerous, and I wanted to do skeleton but I'm too big :/

ellenpageplss1 karma

ever blaze it with those jamaican dudes?

jbmach31 karma

Sorry to say but I don't smoke dude. We invited them out to drinks with us but they had somewhere to be (by the way, Park City is a fantastic town to bar hop at!)

GHarriott1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach32 karma

I started training just over a year ago. Went to the summer combines (I was injured so I didn't do well unfortunately). However I killed it at drivers school and am now moving out to Utah to train full-time.

GHarriott1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach31 karma

Oh yeah. I'll be sliding 5-days per week, spending about 20 hours at the track (this doesn't count the mental runs that we end up doing when we get bored). About 8 hours at a running track, and 8 hours lifting.

I'm also hoping to raise enough money to be able to attend Advanced Drivers School (where we learn 4-man and such) in March in Lake Placid.

GHarriott1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach31 karma

Absolutely. I'm aiming for the 2018, 2022, and 2026 Olympics.

GHarriott1 karma

[deleted]

jbmach32 karma

Thank you so much!!!

Richard-Rider0 karma

A few follow up questions. Some people, me excluded, might find this interesting:

  1. Is it possible to masturbate in a bobsled?

  2. If it is which one of the participants would be the safest one to do it without getting caught

jbmach30 karma

It would be easier as a brakeman. As a pilot, if I let go of the D-rings to try that, I will end up crashing and that would be no fun for anyone. As a brakeman, it may be possible, but they are holding onto their own handholds and may get launched out of the sled if we hit a bump while they're trying to do that.