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Big men in a can

Getting into a moving four-man bobsled is a trick even Houdini wouldn't try.

Four guys straining to get 800-pounds of fiberglass and steel moving down a cement chute covered with ice, and then they all have to jump in before the sled noses into its one-mile plunge, with speeds reaching 95 mph.

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When done right, it happens in less than five seconds.

When it goes wrong—as it nearly did for USA-3 Friday—it makes you hold your breath. Pusher Jamie Moriarty, the man right behind driver Mike Kohn, slipped and started falling head first into the sled. Adjusting on the fly, brakeman Nick Cunningham slid all the way to the back of the sled with his backend hanging off as Bill Schuffenhauer grabbed Moriarty to steady him and guide him into place.

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Then there's USA-2, with, perhaps, more human inside than any other sled.

Driver John Napier is 6-foot-3.

Behind him is pusher Chuck Berkeley, at 6-foot-5, the tallest U.S. Olympian.

In November, Napier, 23, and Berkeley, 33, teamed to win the World Cup two-man bobsled competition at Lake Placid, N.Y., so they obviously made close quarters work.

But when it comes to four-man--where sleds cannot exceed 12.5 feet in length--that doesn't leave much room for Steve Langton (6-foot-1) and Chris Fogt (an even 6) to fold themselves in and duck down.

Napier jumps in first, scrunches himself tight under the cowling and grabs the D-rings, the steering mechanism.

Langton loads next, followed by Berkeley.

"What he has to do is grab his ankles and pull them close to him," says Napier. "He kind of coils up like a spring and then he holds onto the handles."

Fogt makes do with what's left—with inches to spare in the back.

That takes care of the legs. The torsos of these athletes barely make it.

"It's just wide enough for shoulders to squeeze in," says Napier, laughing. "It's a good thing we're in speed suits. Our push times are great, but man, it's a tight fit."

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