Highly emotional weekend for bobsledding legend Kailie Humphries

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.

Bobsled sensations Moyse and Humphries soar towards legendary status in Sochi

In the afterglow of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, a pair of Canadian sporting heroes solidified their legacy by becoming Canadian legends. Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries earned their second consecutive gold medal in the bobsled event.

Heather Moyse, quite possibly the greatest athlete ever from Prince Edward Island is also a two-sport star. Having also represented Canada on the pitch in the sometimes unforgiving and all-too aggressive sport of rubgy, the athletic legacy of Moyse is one that will empower future generations of female athletes from PEI.

Literally the gold standard in bobsled, Kaillie Humphries may be the greatest Canadian, male or female, to have competed in the sport. With a legendary undefeated streak that only increased expectations in Sochi, Humphries delivered the goods while endearing herself to a nation of sports fans back home.

Among the rare group of Canadian athletes outside of hockey that have earned gold medals in consecutive Winter Games, their legend grew with an act of kindness that brought with it a touch of class. The day after claiming the gold medal, Moyse and Humphries wrote a letter of inspiration for the Canadian national women’s hockey team. Of note, the contents read,

“There are ups and down in every race/game, but we are proof that if you keep believing in the possibilities, results can be golden. Own it! The ice is yours! Fight till the bitter end!

Smiles…. Heather + Kaillie”

As Canada’s women were competing against their archrivals from the United States in the gold medal game, the letter would prove to be a tremendous source of inspiration. In addition to the letter being mentioned by Ron McLean on CBC Sports, prior to the broadcast of the game, many hockey players went on social media to express their gratitude for the letter.

Having emerged as one of the most influential and important sporting documents of the last decade, there is no question that the letter composed by Moyse and Humphries deserves to be displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, for all hockey fans to see. Considering how the Canadian victory in women’s hockey set the tone for the Canadian men to beat the United States in their semifinal the day after, the letter has a legend to it as influential as the Lucky Loonie, buried in the ice by Trent Evans, at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.

Proving that one can never go wrong when paying it forward, a karmic reward was granted upon Moyse and Humphries when they earned the privilege of being the flag bearers for Canada at the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
World-class individuals with hearts of gold, Moyse and Humphries have displayed the true essence of the Olympic spirit and the meaning of grace and sportsmanship. Even if this dynamic duo retire from bobsled competition, their legacies as ambassadors for the sport are indisputable. There is no question that fans will see them together again as a place must surely await them one day in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Humphries and Moyse continue to set the global standard in bobsledding

A December 14 showing in Lake Placid found the remarkable bobsledding duo of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse on top of the World Cup podium. Clocking a two-heat combined run of 1:53.66, the closest competitor was Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams of the United States by 0.12 seconds. Of note, Meyers also took second place to Humphries at the season opening event in Calgary, Alberta.

In the first run, the duo logged a track record with a sparkling time of 56.63 seconds, which was merely .02 seconds faster than the persistent Meyers. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the fact that Moyse was nursing a back injury.

November 2013: Humphries, centre, holds her niece Haze beside partner Heather Moyse after capturing first in a women's bobsleigh World Cup event in Calgary. Photograph by: Todd Korol , Getty Images

November 2013: Humphries, centre, holds her niece Haze beside partner Heather Moyse after capturing first in a women’s bobsleigh World Cup event in Calgary. Photograph by: Todd Korol , Getty Images

The week prior, Calgary-native Humphries found her streak of 15 straight podium finishes snapped in Park City, Utah. Of note, the streak also included 11 victories. With Moyse unable to compete, Chelsea Valois of Zenon Park, Saskatchewan stepped in. The two would grab a world title in 2012-13 but were unable to duplicate their magic again.

Heavy snow played a factor as the team was unable to keep Humphries streak alive. A disappointing seventh-place would serve as the final result. During the Lake Placid race, Valois raced with Edmonton native Jenny Ciochetti, with a 14th place finish.

Proud PEI native Heather Moyse promoting homegrown potatoes (Image obtained from: www.potatopro.com)

Proud PEI native Heather Moyse promoting homegrown potatoes (Image obtained from: http://www.potatopro.com)

Summerside, PEI resident Moyse is a multi-sport athlete who has also represented Canada on the international stage in rugby and cycling. Of note, she was the leading scorer at the 2006 Rugby World Cup. With the sport making its Summer Games debut at Rio 2016, the thought of Moyse suiting up for Canada on the pitch would only solidify her legend. Having actually started in bobsled at 27, she competed in bobsled with Helen Upperton at the 2006 Torino Winter Games.

While Moyse took a break from bobsledding after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the two have reunited for the 2013-14 season. With the season opener on home soil, Humphries and Moyse made an impression as they set a new Canadian track record in Calgary. The duo would soar through Canada Olympic Park in 55.89 seconds, as a quarter-second was lopped off the previous record, held by Lesa Mayes-Stringer and Jamie Cruickshank.

Heading into the Sochi Winter Games as favorites for a gold medal, the track may have a significant factor in which team emerges victorious. With three uphill sections, it shall serve as a brand new experience for many competitors. The last time that a track had three such sections was at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.