—Team Humphries wins gold in four-women’s bobsleigh exhibition, Team Rissling celebrates the silver—
IGLS, Aut.—Canada’s four-man bobsleigh crew piloted by Chris Spring slid into 12th spot on Sunday to mark the end of the 2016 Bobsleigh and Skeleton World
Championships in Igls, Austria.
Spring teamed up with fellow Calgarians Josh Kirkpatrick and Lascelles Brown along with CFL star receiver, Sam Giguere of Sherbrooke, Que., to clock a four-run time of 3:25.81 over the last two days.
“I didn’t execute over the last two days like I did in the two-man,” said Spring, who captured his first World Cup two-man victory in January on his home track in Whistler. “I struggled a little in curve nine on this track. We need to be perfect to have a shot at a top-six so that cost me.”
The Canadian quartet enjoyed its best run on their final trip down the 1,478-metre track, clocking the eighth fastest time at 51.36.
Justin Kripps, of Summerland, B.C., drove his Canadian crew of Alex Kopacz (London, Ont.), Derek Plug (Calgary), and Ben Coakwell (Saskatoon) to 16th place with a time of 3:26.51.
“We saw over the entire season that we have to improve as a nation. Not just the pushing and the driving, but with our equipment as well,” added Spring. “We are behind before we even hit the ice, and that needs to change in the coming seasons.”
Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and his crew of Daumants Dreiskens, Arvis Vilkaste and Janis Strenga rebounded after a slow first run to bolt eight spots up the standings int the winner’s circle with a time of 3:24.27.
Germany’s Francesco Friedrich, Candy Bauer, Gregor Bermbach and Thorsten Margis were second at 3:24.31. Switzerland’s Rico Peter, Janne Bror van der Zijde, Thomas Amrhein, and Simon Friedli claimed the bronze with a time of 3:24.49.
Earlier in the final day of the 2016 World Championships, it was the top women’s bobsledders on the planet taking centre stage for a historic four-woman exhibition race.
Spearheaded by the determination of Canada’s two-time Olympic champion, Kaillie Humphries, and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton to develop women’s bobsleigh, four four-women sleds from three different countries competed in the inaugural event.
Calgary’s Humphries, who has been racing an all-women’s crew against the men for the second half of the World Cup season in preparation for the exhibition, handily won the gold medal.
Humphries and her team of Cynthia Appiah (Toronto), Kasha Lee (Ottawa) and Melissa Lotholz (Barrhead, Alta.) joined forces to clock a winning time of 1:47.35.
Canada’s Alysia Rissling (Calgary), Janine McCue (Cochrane, Alta.), Julia Corrente (Chatham, Ont.) and Christine DeBruin (Calgary) teamed up to win the silver medal at 1:48.11.
Competing in a few World Cup races over the last two years, while focusing on her development driving on the North America’s Cup, Rissling also piloted an all-women’s sled in four-man races during the final North America’s Cup race last season in Park City.
Sitting in third after the first run, Team Rissling climbed one spot in the standings over the Romanian team of Maria Adela Constantin, Olivia Franciska Vild, Andreea Grecu and Erika Anett Halay who settled for the bronze medal at 1:48.18.
With Humphries and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton leading the charge in an effort to provide increased race opportunities for women to develop skills and race against the world’s best on the elite stage, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation decided in September 2014 to allow mixed-gender and women’s teams to compete in four-man races.
“This is something I have been very passionate about happening over the last two years,” said Humphries at the time. “We live in an age now where it has become more and more acceptable in many sports to have women compete with the men.
“Not every woman will want to accept the challenge, and the same will be said for the guys, but I’m personally one that has always pushed the limits and I am very fortunate enough to have the athletic ability and support of many people and groups to take on the challenge and see what is possible. You don’t know what is possible until you try!”
Humphries and American Elana Meyers Taylor were the first women to pilot mixed-gender sleds against the men last year during a World Cup in Calgary. Humphries’ friend, and top rival, Meyers Taylor finished fourth on Sunday.
The step forward for women’s bobsleigh is another feather in the cap for Humprhies in a track full of accomplishments throughout her career. Humphries has completely rewritten the record books over the last five years where she became the first Canadian woman to win two Olympic and World Championship titles in the sport. Along the way she also set a new record for wins-in-a-row at nine, and went on to reach the podium in 15 straight races – 11 of them victories. This year, Humphries and Lotholz, have reached the podium in all eight races while boasting three victories.
“Every athlete wants to have a legacy and this is something I believe strongly in. This is the first step that will help bridge the gap between having another event for women in our sport, but more importantly be huge in growing our sport for women, and developing my skills as a pilot.”
The final World Cup of the season takes place next weekend in Konigssee, Germany.