ALTENBERG, Ger.—Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz began 2017 in a familiar position – on top of the World Cup bobsleigh podium.
Racing together for the first time this season, the Canadian duo tamed the 1,413-metre Altenberg beast, shattering the field with the fastest down times in both runs to post a combined time of 1:54.15.
It was the 19th career victory for Humphries and 41st career World Cup podium to go along with her four World Championship and two Olympic medals.
“I didn’t drive perfectly. There were a couple of little mistakes here and there, but at the end of the day I was happy with it,” said the 31-year-old Humphries. “We went out and gave it our all. Melissa stepped up today and that was great to see. We had some timing issues on our first push, but we sorted that out, got our timing on point and gained it on the second run.”
Clocking a first run start time at 5.79, Calgary’s Humphries, and Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., were the only sled in the field to improve their second-run start time. They posted the second-fastest final run start at 5.74.
“There was definitely a little bit of rust for me in the first run, but I felt ready to go in the second heat,” said Lotholz. “We debriefed between runs and that second run I was ready to go. It is a different ball game when you are in the number sled and I’m very excited to have pushed four one-hundredths faster on the second run.”
The Canadians finished seven-tenths of a second faster than the silver-medalists from the United States – Elana Meyers Tayler and Kehri Jones. The Americans posted a two-run time of 1:54.85. Austria’s Christina Hengster and Sanne Monique Dekker grabbed the bronze medal at 1:54.93.
It was the second victory for Humphries and third straight medal this seaons, extending a 12-race podium streak that started one year ago when she and Lotholz also won in Altenberg. The two-time Olympic champion was pushed by Toronto’s Cynthia Appiah to a gold at the season-opener in Whistler and bronze in Lake Placid prior to the holiday break.
Humphries’ longest medal streak of her career came in 2013 when she reached the podium in 13 straight races.
Renowned as one of the toughest tracks in the world, it was Humphries fifth career medal in Altenberg, and third victory. She and Lotholz also captured their first World Cup podium together in Altenberg in 2014 when they were third.
“I really like this track. Next to Whistler it is one of my favourite in the world. I have had great results here and I have a good feeling for it,” said Humphries.
“I don’t know what it is exactly. I like driving and being in control. On the harder tracks there is more skill required, and you need to be on it all the time. Your focus needs to be there 100 per cent. Altenberg demands more of me as an athlete and I’m at a point in my career where I’m looking for those challenges. This track keeps you honest. You have to have the courage to let the sled run, but I’ve never been scared to go down and come back when it has bit me.”
Jane Channell Leads Canadians in 11th at Skeleton World Cup
Earlier in the day, Jane Channell led a trio of Canadian women with an 11th-place finish in the women’s World Cup skeleton race.
The 28 year old from North Vancouver had her best result of the young season after posting a two-run time of 1:59.88.
“It was a challenging race today. The ice was much harder then it was in training giving it more speed and therefore affecting the pressures in the corners,” said Channell. “The key corners here are finicky and tough to keep consistent so with the change in weather it made it even trickier. I’ve always like Altenberg, although I always wish we could spend more time here to put more pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a technical track so you can learn a lot sliding here.”
Channell, who captured her first World Cup medal one year ago, got off to a slow start to the season with back-to-back 16th place finishes.
“To go along with the New Year, I’m treating this half of the season like a new start. I struggled in the first two races so I’m really working hard to turn the season around,” said Channell. “Currently one of my biggest challenges is trusting my sled and believing in myself as a driver. Every run I’m constantly working on this by trying to relax into my sled to let it fly. I’m looking to take this result on a tough European track, and build off of this momentum, into next week in Winterberg.”
The German women grabbed the top-two spots on the podium. Jacqueline Loelling smashed the field with a combined time of 1:57.17. Tina Hermann slid to the silver medal at 1:57.61. Austria’s Janine Flock prevented the German sweep of the podium, earning the bronze medal with a time of 1:57.71.
Calgary’s Elisabeth Vathje slid to 14th place with a time of 2:00.12. Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva was 18th (2:00.86).
The World Cup continues on Saturday in Altenberg with the men’s skeleton and two-man bobsleigh races.