Paragon Bobsled Equipment
Paragon ended European dominance in sophisticated bobsled design, setting a world track record with its revolutionary sled design in 1992.
Five years earlier Canada lacked competitive bobsleigh equipment and athletes.
In 1987 Sam Bock and Steve Hall were living & training together and trying to make Canada’s national team. Bock began engineering research into aerodynamics, metallurgy, tribology, suspension & vibration dampening systems, composite materials & mould making, various welding and metal fabrication techniques, and other applied sciences/technologies critical to bobsled design.
Bock then designed & built a new bobsled steering system and later used the system to finish 3rd in the 1988 Canadian Bobsled Championships with brakeman Ken Leblanc – a future 4-time Olympian.
The Canadian team then began preparing for the Calgary Olympics. Not on the team, Bock helped the effort by offering up the steering system, and then researching & designing other equipment for the team. Based on his tribology research, he modified bobsled runner metallurgy to reduce thermal conductivity, sliding friction, and wear.
The new steering system and specially prepared nitrided steel runners are used by the Canadian team at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games to help achieve Canada’s best-ever modern results to that date. David Leuty and Kevin Tyler achieved top starts and the modified runners and two sleds with steering systems significantly outperformed all others acquired for the Canadian National Team’s 1988 Olympic effort.
With the Canadian team showing potential to make it to the top tier, Bock forms the non-profit Paragon Bobsleigh Association with Hall, Tyler, and Leuty. Tyler begins sharing his knowledge of sprint mechanics and training. This provides the foundation for years of Paragon training research and testing to come that ultimately helps produce Paragon’s revolutionary sport training principles and competition successes for those athletes using them.
Paragon’s Bock, Hall, and Tyler study slow motion video of Ben Johnson’s sprint mechanics and Swiss bobsledder Bruno Gerber’s push mechanics for countless hours, learning something new most times they review them.
That summer Bock, Leuty, Hall, Tyler, Dell, and the other Paragon athletes dominate the Canadian National Bobsled Team training camps, setting several new national push records.
Bock and Hall then form Paragon Technologies Ltd., a privately held company, to develop new bobsled equipment and training techniques for Canadian success in power/speed sports. The first project is the design of a new world class bobsled for Canadian athletes.
Paragon Directors Lindsay Hood and Mike Smith invest $5000 each, and help convince the Spurt Investment Fund II to contribute $30,000. Lorne Graham, an avid Toronto based supporter of our Canadian bobsledding efforts also invests $5000. George Thorpe helps Paragon secure a $10,000 National Research Council IRAP grant to develop bobsled technology. Gordon Capital and Novatel kick in another $50,000 to the effort.
Paragon began designing & manufacturing its first bobsled prototypes at Aerotech’s fabrication plant in Calgary. To help reduce fabrication costs, owners Phil Kristenson and Dave Meyer taught Bock TIG welding and Hall how to cut and grind metal parts. They also extended free use of the plant to fabricate the first bobsleds designed and built in Canada.
Paragon soon produced a revolutionary sled and design. Developed on a shoestring budget of $50,000 in just two years, the sleds they surpassed had been in development for many years with individual budgets as high as $1.2 million. Bock won several races in the new 2 man sled design hitting some of the fastest split times on the bottom of Calgary’s Olympic Track in the process. Paragon’s 2-man bobsled would continue to win races and then set a world track record on that track with Steve Hall driving and brakeman Jeff Ingram, becoming the first and only North American designed sled to ever do so.
The company’s second generation 2-man sled was again one of the world’s fastest from 1993-1998 until Bock retired the sled.
All of Paragon’s sleds were very smooth and notoriously quiet compared to others on the track. 19 years after it was designed 2-time Canadian Champion Tom Samuel looked at that sled again for the first time in years when he picked it up to use for Jamaican Winston Watt's 2012 training and commented. “I had forgotten how advanced it was. It’s ‘Naaaaaation’, and still ahead of the designs in use today!”