IGLS, Aut.—Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz cleaned up a sloppy first run to lock up the silver medal at the bobsleigh World Cup on Saturday in Igls, Austria.
The Canadian duo posted the second fastest start and run times in both heats to lock up second place with a two-run time of 1:46.39.
“We had a few mistakes on our first push. Our sled came out of (start) groove about five metres in, and I had a tap in corner nine, so we really tried to correct those things in the second run,” said Humphries. “Overall it was a decent day. The pushes are really coming together for Melissa and I, and the velocity is great.”
The silver was only the fourth career podium finish for Humphries on the flat 10-corner Austrian track that brings the field together. She also has one World Cup gold, a bronze, along with one silver with Lotholz at last year’s World Championships in Austria.
“Overall this track is one of the easiest on Tour, but there are tricky parts to it as well,” said Humphries, who also has four World Championship and two Olympic medals on her resume. “The start is the most important factor. Athletes who start well here will inevitably do well. I’ve been up and down in Igls, and have had more success lately so I think I’m starting to figure out how to drive this track, but it is definitely a track that requires attention and detail.”
The Canadian sled’s top rivals from the United States, Elana Meyers Taylor and Lolo Jones, captured their fourth-straight victory with a time of 1:46.14. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans, also of the United States, were third at 1:46.53.
It was the fifth medal of the season, and 43rd career podium, for the overall World Cup leader Humphries. It was her third podium this year with the 24-year-old Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., on the sled. Two of the Alberta connection’s 15 career medals together came earlier this year when they won the gold in Altenberg, and a silver in St. Moritz two weeks ago.
Humphries also teamed up with Toronto’s Cynthia Appiah for a victory at the season opener in Whistler and a bronze in Lake Placid this year.
Coming off a fourth-place finish with Appiah last week in Konigssee – the site of the 2017 World Championships in two weeks – Humphries made a key decision on Saturday to go back to her sled from last year.
“I just felt the sled wasn’t running properly in Konigssee for that track so I wanted to test it this week so that when we go back to World Championships it will hopefully create a bigger advantage,” said Humphries, who added Lotholz will be pushing her for the premiere event on this year’s bobsleigh calendar.
“Melissa has worked hard, and looking at the results with the coaches, when she is in the sled our velocity and speed is far greater. The rivalry between her and Cynthia has been awesome to see. Bringing Cynthia into the mix has pushed both of them. They are in a healthy competition and the results are showing.”
Edmonton’s Alysia Rissling and Quebec City’s Genevieve Thibault slid to ninth place with a combined time of 1:47.36. Christine de Bruin, also of Edmonton, and Catherine Medeiros, of Mascouche, Que., were 11th (1:47.46).
Meanwhile, Justin Kripps and Jesse Lumsden, took advantage of a rule change by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation regarding sandpaper protocol on the sled runners to post their best result since the holiday break.
Struggling to match speeds with the top sleds in the world over the last month, Kripps of Summerland, B.C. and Lumsden, of Burlington, Ont., catapulted into fifth spot after sitting 10th after the first heat.
The two-time Olympians posted the second fastest final run time to jump five spots into fifth at 1:43.77.
“The jury noticed that the sandpaper was not affecting a lot of the athletes’ runners and the races seemed unfair. I applaud the IBSF in making the change to create a more fair race for the athletes,” said Kripps.
“I think this is why we had a better result today. Our starts are getting better, and with a fairer race regarding the runners, we had a good result despite some driving errors from me. We are one of the top teams, and I think if they keep the rules the way they had them for this race, we have a great chance at the World Championships with a level playing field.”
Germany’s Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis slid to the two-man gold medal with a time of 1:42.92. Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga claimed the silver at 1:43.65, while Austria’s Benjamin Maier and Markus Sammer climbed two spots in their final run to win the bronze medal with a time of 1:43.72.
Calgary’s Chris Spring raced with Lascelles Brown in the first heat. Edmonton’s Neville Wright replaced Brown, who went down with a minor injury, for the final run. Team Spring was 13th at 1:44.17. Hamilton’s Nick Poloniato and Calgary’s Derek Plug finished 18th (1:44.33).
The four-man bobsleigh competition is set for Sunday in Igls, Austria.