An Olympic women’s bobsleigh champion in partnership with Heather Moyse at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, Canada’s Kaillie Humphries is hoping to make it three golds in a row at PyeongChang 2018.
The most successful athlete in the short history of Olympic women’s bobsleigh, Humphries has dedicated her life to being the best and to flying the flag for her country.
“To me, the pride associated with wearing a maple leaf, knowing you are an extension of that country as you head around the world, you are the best of what that country has to offer,” said the two-time reigning Olympic two-woman bob champion.
“I feel very proud to be able to wear the maple leaf… for knowing who as a culture, as a nation we are as people and I want the rest of the world to know that as well. I dreamed of standing at the top of the Olympic podium since I was seven,” she adds. “There have been numerous things that have helped along the way: the support of my family, friends and sponsors, sacrifice, commitment, hard work and the dedication that I’ve always had inside me. I work at it every single day!”
Victory in Vancouver
Humphries began her international career as a brakewoman, earning a place on the Canada team for Turin 2006. Yet after taking part in the Opening Ceremony, she was told by the team’s managers that she would not be competing.
“I just started crying and went to my room. I thought: ‘Do I stay here and gain experience or do I go home?’” she recalled. “I decided to stay and support my team by cheering them on. I thought I couldn’t let that be my Olympic experience, so that was when I made the decision to become a bobsleigh pilot.”
Humphries began training with brakewoman Moyse and it was not long before they started to put some impressive results together on the world tour. After winning their first IBSF World Cup race at Altenberg (GER) in December 2009, they headed to Vancouver 2010 ranked second in the world.
On board Canada 1, Humphries and Moyse swept the rest of the field aside, beating the Whistler Sliding Centre start and track records in each of the first three runs to claim a convincing gold. As well as becoming the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic bobsleigh title and the first Canadian of either gender to collect two-person gold, Humphries also secured only her country’s second ever bobsleigh gold, 46 years on from Peter Kirby, Doug Anakin and John and Vic Emery’s victory in the four-man event at Innsbruck.
The Calgary pilot went on to become the world No1, a status she held on to in the years that followed despite a number of personnel changes behind her. When Moyse moved on to represent her country at the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup and compete in international track cycling events, Humphries won World Cup races with Emily Baadsvik in the 2011/12 season before teaming up with Jennifer Ciochetti to land the world title in Lake Placid (USA) in February 2012.
The following season, now partnered by Chelsea Valois, she scored an incredible six consecutive wins en route to her maiden World Cup crown and also retained her world title in St Moritz (SUI) in January 2013. After undergoing hip surgery in 2012, Moyse returned to Humphries’ bob for the start of the 2013/14 season. The Canadian duo scored World Cup wins in Calgary (CAN) and Lake Placid (USA) in December 2013 and then St Moritz (SUI) the following month before heading to Sochi to defend their Olympic title. They were pushed all the way by USA pair Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, who led going into the fourth and final run. Refusing to give up to their crown, the Canadians produced a scintillating descent to pip their rivals by 0.10 seconds and become the first duo ever to retain the Olympic two-woman title.
“It’s really hard to describe my feelings,” said Humphries afterwards. “Sacrifices have been made not only by myself but also my friends, my family. And then Heather has come on board. It’s just something we have done together. And it’s great.
“How does it feel to fulfil a dream? It’s a goal that comes along every four years and it’s ours – it’s something we achieve together. Winning the gold is amazing, but it’s even better to come away feeling satisfied. After the third descent I knew that if we did our job, we could make it to the top.”
A seat to fill
Humphries claimed her second World Cup title in 2014. After finishing as runner-up to Meyers in 2015, she regained the trophy in 2016 and then came second to another American, Jamie Greubel Poser, in the season that followed. In the meantime, Humphries lent her weight to the campaign to have four-woman bobsleigh added to the Winter Games programme. As well as driving a mixed bob, she formed part of the first all-female team to compete against the men in a four-person World Cup bobsleigh race in 2016.
Back in the two-woman bob – and with Moyse again taking time out from the sport – Humphries was joined by Melissa Lotholz, winning world championship silvers with her in Igls (AUT) in 2016 and in Königsee (GER) the following year. Though she has also achieved impressive results with Cynthia Appiah in recent times, the Canadian driver is still waiting to see who will partner her when she goes for her third Olympic title at PyeongChang 2018.
“The battle is extremely tight, we’ll see how that plays out,” said Humphries. “At the end of the day, it’s down to the coaching staff, it’s down to Bobsleigh Canada to choose the best people. I want to be racing with the best brakemen that Canada has to offer come January and I want to be able to prove my position. I want my brakeman to know that I’m the best pilot for her as well, so together we are the strongest team.
“That’s what it’s going to take to win Olympic gold. So regardless of who that person is – we’re all tested up until January – the best brakeman and best pilot should be put together. That’s what we’re working towards, trying to figure that out.”
That “brakeman” could possibly be Moyse, who made yet another return to bobsleigh in autumn 2017 to nurture Canada’s new generation of female bobsleighers.
“I’m open to every scenario,” said Humphries, who in the meantime has been starring with Lotholz in the World Cup, scoring two wins and a second place to lead the women’s bobsleigh World Cup standings as 2017 came to a close.