Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz Strike Gold at Bobsleigh World Cup Opener in Altenberg
—Jane Channel leads Canadian skeleton women in seventh—
ALTENBERG, Ger.—Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz made an early statement they are hungry for gold after winning the season-opening race on the Bobsleigh World Cup circuit in Altenberg, Germany on Friday.
Humphries shaved 0.002 seconds off her six-year-old track record after posting a opening run time of 57.77, en route to shattering the field with a combined time of 1:53.67.
“Overall I’m really happy how it went. We pushed faster this year than last year, which shows a summer of good training is paying off,” said Humphries following her 30th career World Cup podium. “We had two good runs overall, and I’m happy with how I drove today. The new sled is running really well and I hope to continue to build on this momentum for rest of season.”
Elfie Willemsen and Sophie Vercruyssen, of Belgium, were nearly a full second behind the Canadians in second spot at 1:54.41, Americans Jamie Greubel Poser and Lauren Gibbs clocked-in at 1:54.72 for the bronze.
It was the 14th World Cup victory for Calgary’s Humphries, and first with Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., on her brakes. Humphries’ first World Cup victory also came on the highly-technical Altenberg track back in 2009.
“I like this track. It scares most people slightly. It doesn’t matter if you are the best in the world, it will eat you alive. This track keeps people honest, but at the end of the day it matches my driving style,” added Humphries. “I enjoy the difficulty of it and overall it allows me to drive and I can feel the pressures well. Some tracks just fit with a driver’s style and this is one that does for me.”
The 22-year-old Lotholz pushed Humphries to three of her four podiums during a rookie season one year ago. Their first podium together also came in Altenberg when they won the bronze last year.
“It (win) is honestly a little much to take in right now and quite surreal,” said Lotholz. “To stand on the podium and see the Canadian flag raised while hearing the anthem – it brought a tear to my eye. It is just amazing to be a part of.”
With a track full of medals on her mantle, the expectation for Humphries – a two-time Olympic and World Champion – is to stand on top of the podium.
“The goal is to be very best I can be and I know if I can do that I’ll be best in the world. Last year was year one of four. There was lots of new and we are still going through a new cycle of teach and learn with brakemen and equipment, but it is nice to see it is paying off,” said Humphries.
A more confident Lotholz has also made a big difference on the Canadian teams push and overall performance.
“There is a huge difference for me this year, and I didn’t realize how much I’ve grown as an athlete and person until I came back to the World Cup this year. I know what’s going on and I know how to take care of myself both on and off the track. I know what it will take to be my best. I am just in a way different place then a year ago with a lot more confidence,” added Lotholz.
Earlier in the day, Canada’s Jane Channell matched her career-best World Cup result with a seventh-place finish in women’s skeleton action.
Still recovering from a torn hamstring in late summer, the 27 year old from North Vancouver was fifth-fastest off the start block in both runs – just .02 off her personal best – while clocking in at 1:58.69 in her two trips down the highly-technical Altenberg track.
“Everyone would always like to finish higher, but considering how training has been going I’m happy with today,” said Channell, who was four spots better than her finish one year ago in Altenberg. “I’m still learning my new equipment and took a gamble with some runners which paid off for me today. The start has been my strong point, but I’m hoping to prove my driving abilities are not far behind. I know I could have had cleaner runs but I improved on last year and have to be happy.”
Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje was the only other Canadian in the field and squeaked into the top-15, placing 13th with a two-run time of 1:59.21.
Great Britain’s Laura Deas spoiled the German party by taking top spot on the women’s skeleton podium. Deas clocked a golden time of 1:57.84. The Germans did slide onto the final two spots of the podium. Tina Hermann snagged the silver at 1:57.88, while Jacqueline Loelling won the race for the bronze with a time of 1:58.01.
The World Cup continues on Saturday in Altenberg with men’s skeleton and two-man bobsleigh.
Top-Five Women’s and Canadian Results:
1. Kaillie Humphries, Calgary/Melissa Lotholz, Calgary, CAN, 1:53.67; 2. Elfje Willemsen/Sophie Vercruyssen, BLG, 1:54.41; 3. Jamie Greuble Poser/Lauren Gibbs, USA, 1:54.72; 4. Christina Hengster/Sanne Monique Dekker, AUT, 1:54.72; 5. Anja Schneiderheinze/Franziska Bertels, GER, 1:54.85
Top-Five Women’s and Canadian Skeleton Results:
1. Laura Deas, GBR, 1:57.84; 2. Tina Hermann, GER, 1:57.88; 3. Jacqueline Loelling, GER, 1:58.01; 4. Sophia Griebel, GER, 1:58.39; 5. Lelde Priedulena, LAT, 1:58.55
7. Jane Channel, North Vancouver, 1:58.69; 13. Elisabeth Vathje, Calgary, 1:59.21