The Canadian switched from Alpine skiing to bobsleigh and has now won two Olympic gold medals. Here, she reveals what it’s like to train and compete in the sport
Kaillie Humphries’ sporting journey started not in a sled, but on the slopes. She competed as an Alpine skier until the age of 16 when her time on skis was brutally cut short, breaking both legs in separate crashes. After retirement in 2002, she began her bobsleigh career – and hasn’t looked back since.
“Bobsleigh is extremely fun and it’s extremely exhilarating,” says the 32-year-old, who won gold at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 alongside brakewoman Heather Moyse, the pair becoming the first women to defend an Olympic title in the sport.
“It is a lot of work for very little time in the sled, but at the end of the day, your hopes and dreams as an athlete get to be realised – you get to make friends with tons of people around the world, to travel, and to represent your country.”
Now, as she gears up for PyeongChang 2018, the Canadian speedster gives us an insight into what life is like as an elite bobsleigh athlete.
The weekly routine
“I train six days a week, anywhere from three to five hours a day, doing a combination of sprinting and weights. We train a lot like the Olympic sprinters do, and then we also train a lot like the Olympic lifters. We do a combination of all of those because we have a lot of strength elements as well as a lot of speed elements.”
It’s all in the detail
“Training for a bobsleigh event involves a lot of work for what is actually very little time on the track. Everything I do is built around the Olympic Games, where we only get four runs – each one less than a minute long. You essentially train for four years of your life for a few minutes’ worth of sport!”
On the ropes
“I get a lot of questions about how you drive a bobsleigh; it’s two ropes that are attached to an axle on the front and then you pull left or right. There’s no steering wheel.”
The technical side
“I’m very involved with my equipment and work on a daily basis with my sled mechanic to make sure that the sled is running optimally. At every single track it’s set up in a different way to be the fastest on that track. I work very hard on aerodynamics with our sled technician as well, as bobsleigh races are often won or lost by a hundredth of a second.“
Formula One on ice
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of how heavy bobsleigh equipment is. There’s actually a lot of similarities between Formula One drivers and bobsleigh drivers – the feel that goes through your body, the pressure and g-force. You’re very aware of your bobsleigh, just like they are of their cars.”
“The relationship between pilot and brakeman is very important, especially with the pressure and stress of competition. The trust has to be there, regardless of whether you love or hate each other. You need to know that your teammate has shown up on the day doing everything that they can possibly do to be their best. As long as they can trust that you’ve done the same, together as a team you are an unstoppable force.”
“It goes really quiet for a split second. You’re in for the ride of your life. You’re using all the strength you have to keep yourself tucked inside. There’s no roof, and there’s no seatbelt.”