(ISN) – CALGARY—Kaillie Humphries and Kate O’Brien slid onto the podium for the first time this year, winning the bronze medal on a historic day at the Bobsleigh World Cup in Calgary.
Sitting in fourth after the first run, the Calgary duo hammered the start on their second trip down the 1,455-metre Olympic Track, and cleaned up the driving, to jump into third place with a combined time of 1:52.65.
“This week has been a bit hectic because I’ve started doing the four-man which I’ve never done before so there are new challenges,” said Humprhies. “I made a few driving mistakes trying to decipher between the two- and four-man which is a challenge. It is going to take some time for me to understand how much less to steer and how finicky it is (in two-man).”
It was the first race for the 28-year-old, two-time Olympian with Kate O’Brien on the brakes. O’Brien, 26, has been nursing a series of injuries over the last year, but helped push the Canadian sled onto the podium with the third-fastest push time on the second run.
“It is the first time on the podium for me so I’m excited,” said O’Brien. “We have work to do on the starts, but that is going to come in time.”
Humphries’ main rival on the elite international circuit, Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States, put down the two fastest start- and run times with teammate Cherrelle Garrett. Meyers Taylor, who won the silver medal at the 2014 Games, slid into the winner’s circle with a two-run time of 1:51.76.
Germany’s Anja Schneiderheinze and Franziska Bertels were second at 1:52.21.
Calgary’s Alysia Rissling and Julia Corrente, of Chatham, Ont., competed in their first-ever World Cup, placing 11th at 1:54.44.
After just one hour’s rest, Humphries and Meyers Taylor headed back to the start line to make history as the first women to compete in a four-man bobsleigh event, thanks to a new ruling by the FIBT this fall that allowed for mixed-gender racing.
While Meyers Taylor was first down the track, it was Humphries and her crew of Dan Dale (Edmonton), Joey Nemet (Burlington, Ont.) and DJ McClelland (Calgary) that won the competition within the race between the two women piloted sleds. The Canadians finished 15th, while Meyers Taylor piloted her crew to 16th.
“Today is step one for both Elana and I. We have a long way to go and a lot of learning to do,” said Humphries, who ultimately hopes her participation in four man will lead to more women driving in the sport, and eventually leading to a second women’s event at the Olympics. “We are very eager and excited to be on this path. We are going to keep pushing, and keep learning. At the end of the day we are all competitors and want to win regardless if we are male or female.”
Challenging herself to remain focused between two different race disciplines, Humphries clocked a time of 1:48.87, while Meyers Taylor posted a time of 1:49.52.
The top women’s pilot credits her crew for getting her through an intense day of racing while balancing the two race disciplines for the first time.
“I’m super proud of my guys. Where we are in the world standings is a testament to the work they have done,” said Humphries. “I’m pretty exhausted, but they definitely helped me get through two very distinct races.”
Recognizing the significance of the day, the crew was more focused on it being their first World Cup race ever – not to mention being in the first ever mixed gender sled.
“We just wanted to give Kaillie the opportunity to do well in this race,” said Dan Dale. “I’m really proud of what she did, and overcame, having to do two races with two different sleds. It is a testament to the competitor she is and hats off to her. I’m absolutely honoured to be her teammate.”
History aside, it was the Latvian sled driven by Oskars Melbardis that capped off a double gold weekend by winning the four-man race. Melbardis and his crew of Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste, and Janis Strenga set the time to beat at 1:47.84.
Germany grabbed the final two spots on the four-man podium. Francesco Friedrich, Jan Speer, Martin Grothkopp, and Thorsten Margis were second with a time of 1:48.01. Maximillian Arndt piloted Kevin Korona, Joshua Bluhm, and Ben Heber slid to the bronze medal with a time of 1:48.14.
Canada’s other two sleds also struggled on a difficult week of racing on their home track. Chris Spring, Alexander Kopacz, Josh Kirkpatrick and Derek Plug finished 10th at 1:48.54. Justin Kripps and his crew of Lascelles Brown, Ben Coakwell, and Bryan Barnett were 11th (1:48.60).
The World Cup now travels to Altenberg, Germany following the holiday break. Humphries will get back in her four-man sled in Konigssee, Germany.