WHISTLER, B.C.—To say Kaillie Humphries owns the Whistler Sliding Centre is an understatement.
The two-time Olympic champion, who introduced herself to the world when she won gold at the 2010 Games, teamed up with Melissa Lotholz on Saturday afternoon to capture her third career World Cup victory at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The Canadian slid to the top of the podium in record fashion with a time of 1:45.37 in a tight race.
“It was a lot closer than I expected today. In all fairness I expected a bigger lead in my head and that is a testament to how well the other girls slid today,” said Humphries, who also has a silver and bronze medal while competing in World Cup events on Canada’s West Coast.
“There was a lot of pressure today being the Olympic champion here, and being at home. I don’t like the pressure, but I have experience and know how to deal with it. It is one of the things that comes with competing in sport at this level.”
Humphries and Lotholz were one of four sleds to smash the track record on the first run as the fastest track in the world lived up to its billing. The Canadians not only set the new mark at 52.71 in their first trip down the 1,450 chute, but topped that mark once again with a time of 52.66 in the final heat. Humphries had set the previous standard with Heather Moyse in the third run of their Olympic triumph six years ago at 52.85.
“The track crew has been working hard all week and it shows,” added Humphries. “The weather conditions were perfect today. It was just crisp enough in the air that it was cold, and the ice was hard, smooth and fast. With that, you are going to get track records all over the place. This is what we compete for, what we love and it is high-performance sport at its finest.”
The American team of Jamie Greubel Poser and Cherrelle Garrett posted the next best combined time at 1:45.52. Austria’s Christina Hengster and Sanne Monique Dekker were third at 1:45.64.
It was the 17th World Cup victory for Calgary’s Humphries, bringing her career medal haul to 36. Nine of those medals have come with the 23-year-old Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., on the brakes over the last two years.
“It is great being partnered with Kaillie knowing she has the confidence and experience here (in Whistler),” said Lotholz, who along with Humphries also pushed the fastest two start times of the day. “Kaillie’s knowledge of the track was helpful for me today. She was able to step up and lead. It is great to come home and perform.”
It was the fourth World Cup victory of the season for Lotholz and Humphries who are running away with the season’s overall title. They also have one silver medal, and a bronze medal in the six races this year.
“It has been insane over last 18 months,” added Lotholz, who joined the sport last summer. “I was in shock the entire season last year. This year I’ve been able to settle in. I understand my role more now and I am able to focus on technique, and the things I need to do that is going to make us champions.”
Canadian Men’s Skeleton Athletes Slide to Career Best Results
Earlier in the day, Canada’s Dave Greszczyszyn and Barrett Martineau both slid to career best finishes in the men’s skeleton race.
Competing in his first World Cup race at the Whistler Sliding Centre, the 36-year-old Greszczyszyn pumped his fist coming up the finishing stretch after posting a career-best fifth-place finish. The Brampton, Ont. resident punched the clock at 1:45.68.
“I posted on Facebook this morning I have a love-hate relationship with this track,” said an emotional Greszczyszyn at the finish dock. “It is the best track in the world. They keep the ice nice and fast and smooth and I love that. But it just seems I’d have some good selection races in Calgary and then come here and fall back.
“I know anything can happen on race day. It is a steep start here, which is an advantage for my mass. I just stayed relaxed and let it go.”
Greszczyszyn’s 24-year-old teammate, Barrett Martineau, also matched his career-best finish he set last week in Park City when he was eighth. Sitting in 11th spot after his first bomb down the Olympic track, the Calgarian climbed three places in the standings after a clean second run to finish with a combined time of 1:46.19.
Latvia’s Dukurs brothers were duking it out for top spot on the podium and in the record books at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Martins Dukurs set a new track record in the first run with a time of 52.15 en route to winning his 37th race in his last 43 starts with a time of 1:44.31.
Sitting in second place after the first heat, his brother Tomass, bettered the mark at 52.11 in his final run. The previous standard was set by Canada’s Jon Montgomery when he came from behind to beat Martins Dukurs to win gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Montgomery was trackside to watch Saturday’s race.
Tomass won the silver with a time of 1:44.59. Korea’s Sungbin Yun stopped the clock at 1:45.24 to win the bronze medal.
Saskatoon’s Evan Neufeldt was 22nd and did not qualify for a second run with the top-20.