WHISTLER, B.C.—Kaillie Humphries drove away with the season-opening women’s bobsleigh World Cup race on Saturday afternoon – this time with new brakemen Cynthia Appiah – on a track she has owned since it opened.
It was the 18th victory and 38th World Cup medal for Calgary’s Humphries. She has won the last four times the world has slid into Whistler dating back to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“I absolutely love this place. It is my favourite track on tour,” said the 31-year-old pilot. “This track demands a lot. It is a technical track because it is fast, and it just suits my style.”
Toronto’s Appiah is also fit right in on the 1,450-metre monster that whips its way down Blackcomb Mountain.
Competing in her first World Cup, the former shot put athlete pushed the two time Olympic champion to a new start record at 5.09 in her first run. Humphries held the previous record with Heather Moyse when they pushed a 5.11 en route to winning Olympic gold six years ago.
“My goal today was to just give Kaillie the best possible push that I could,” said Appiah. “I think I did that and I’m really happy to be able to get the job done. I know I have lots to learn and will continue to work hard to keep getting better.”
Appiah got a taste of the World Cup last year as a member of Humphries’ four-man crew. She was recruited into the two-man sled after posting top testing times with Humphries in the Ice House this fall.
“Cynthia was around last year so she knows what I expect. There is still a lot more we can get out each other, but the start today is something I’m very proud of,” added Humphries. “Regardless of a win or a loss, I think it is important to start the season strong and I’m really happy with how we performed today with two good starts and two good runs from a driving perspective. It is all about performance. That is what Canadians expect from us.”
Austria’s Christina Hengster and Monique Sanne Dekker won the silver medal with a time of 1:46.77. American Jamie Greubel Poser and Lauren Gibbs dropped one spot into the bronze medal position after their second run, finishing with a time of 1:46.86.
While Humphries and Appiah hopped onto the top of the podium, it was rookie Canadian pilot Alysia Rissling who captured the world’s attention in her World Cup debut after Melissa Lotholz pushed her to an impressive fourth-place finish.
The newly-formed Canadian duo took advantage of fast starts and clean driving to clock a time of 1:47.12.
“This is really my first World Cup and to finish in fourth place, I am super pumped about that,” said the 28-year-old Rissling who calls Edmonton home. “Having Mel pushing behind me takes one aspect out of the equation. Having the power of her on the back I know I have to just show up, and I can focus more on the driving.”
Having depth in their hands as we edge closer to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Canadian coaches made the decision to move Lotholz, who turned 24 yesterday, behind Rissling in an effort to give Canada two legitimate medal shots on the elite circuit.
Coincidentally, it was Rissling who gave Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., her first trip down a bobsleigh track when she was introduced to the sport three years ago. Lotholz quickly went on to push Kaillie Humphries to a string of World Cup and World Championship medals.
“I think it is really great to partner with Rizz. Having won with Kaillie here last year, I think I brought a lot of experience into the sled today,” said Lotholz. “We did really well as a team. I think this move really helps propel our sport forward in Canada and I’m excited to see where this can go for us.”
Questioned weather it would take time to figure out how to work together as a team, it was clear the solidarity for the two determined Canucks started well before they hopped into a bobsleigh. Rissling played basketball at the University of Alberta where Lotholz was a standout track athlete.
“We have no problem with chemistry. We are both PANDAS after all,” said Lotholz.
Earlier in the day, Calgary’s Barrett Martineau was the top Canadian in the men’s skeleton race. Martineau posted a 10th-place time of 1:46.88. Dave Greszczyszyn, of Brampton, Ont., finished 11th at 1:47.26, while Edmonton’s World Cup rookie, Kevin Boyer, was solid in 17th in his first World Cup race with a time of 1:48.19.
Korea’s Sungbin Yun won the season-opener with a time of 1:45.86. Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov was second at 1:45.98, while Matthew Antoine, of the United States, rounded out the podium with a time of 1:46.22
The World Cup wraps up on Saturday night with the four-man bobsleigh race.
Complete Results: http://www.ibsf.org/en/component/events/event/167975
Women’s Bobsleigh Results:
- Kaillie Humphries, Calgary/Cynthia Appiah, Toronto, CAN, 1:46.53; 2. Christina Hengster/Monique Sanne Dekker, AUT, 1:46.77; 3. Jamie Greubel Poser/Lauren Gibbs, USA, 1:46.86; 4. Alysia Rissling, Edmonton/Melissa Lotholz, Barrhead, Alta., CAN, 1:47.12; 5. Nadezhda Sergeeva/Anastasia Kohcherzhova, RUS, 1:47.54
Men’s Skeleton Results: http://www.ibsf.org/en/component/events/event/167978
- Sungbin Yun, KOR, 1:45.86; 2. Alexander Tretiakov, RUS, 1:45.98; 3. Matthew Antoine, USA, 1:46.22; 4. Martins Dukurs, LAT, 1:46.26; 5. Nikita Tregybov, RUS, 1:46.44
- Barrett Martineau, Calgary, 1:46.88; 11. Dave Greszczyszyn, Brampton, Ont., 1:47.26; 17. Kevin Boyer, Edmonton, 1:48.19