In a career filled with milestones, the weekend of January 8-10, 2016 may represent the most meaningful for two-time Winter Games gold medalist Kailie Humphries. Competing in Lake Placid, Humphries was part of a pair of events, including a historic race against a field composed of men in a four-person World Cup bobsled event.
On Friday, January 8, Kailie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz achieved a second place finish behind Americans Jamie Greubel and Cherrell Gareett in a women’s World Cup bobsled event. The margin of victory was separated by just 43 seconds as the American team finished with a time of 1:53.48. Of note, it was the second win of the season for Greubel, trailing Humphries by just 10 points for the overall World Cup title.
Humphries was racing with a heavy heart as the race represented the first since the passing of coach Malcolm “Gomer” Lloyd on January 3. As the coach who taught Humphries how to drive the sled, he was one of the key architects in her world-class career.
Coincidentally, Gomer trained Humphries in Lake Placid and was a supporter of women getting the opportunity to compete in bobsleighs. Quite possibly the most influential person in her career, it was so unfortunate that he was not on-hand to witness the second race to follow for Humphries.
Despite a last place finish, Humphries and her crew emerged as empowering winners, one that would have made Gomer proud. The native of Calgary was part of an all-female team that included Cynthia Appiah of Toronto, Quebec City’s Genevieve Thibault of Quebec City and Barrhead, Alberta native Melissa Lotholz. Of note, Thibault, a former track star at Laval University and former competitor with Canada’s national rugby sevens team, and Appiah were making their bobsled debuts.
Enduring a difficult 17th place finish out of 17 teams at Mount Van Hoevenberg, such an outcome was attributed to physics. Of note, Humphries’ crew, whose time was 4.77, were over 200 lighter than their male competitors, meaning that achieving the same level of speed was not possible. The winning time was 1:49.70, achieved by Maximilian Arndt of Germany.
There was more Canadian content in the race as Justin Kripps led his team to a third place finish in 1:50.07. As a side note, John James Jackson of Britain finished in 16th place ahead of Humphries team, finishing ahead by 2.67 seconds.
For Humphries, the real victory was the proud statement made about eventually adding a four-woman division to World Cup racing. With the words “girl power” adorned on her socks, it is part of Humphries’ goal to see a four-woman division before retiring from active competition. Next month in Igls, Austria, there shall be another exhibition race featuring a four-woman bobsled team, with the continued push to see the event become part of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
Another vocal athlete about such a worthy cause is American-born Elana Meyers Taylor. Last season, both Humphries and Meyers Taylor were approved to race with men’s teams, with Meyers Taylor piloting a sled with three male teammates. Traditionally, all women’s races have consisted of just teams composed of two competitors, while men’s races include both two- and four-man teams.