LAKE PLACID, N.Y.—Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz struck first in the battle for gold on the track to Pyeongchang, winning the women’s bobsleigh World Cup season opener in Lake Placid, U.S.A. on Thursday.
The Alberta-based Queens of Canadian bobsleigh joined forces to clock a golden two-run time of 1:54.40.
“It was a great way to start the year. The ultimate goal is to be on top in February. There are a lot of races between now and then, but this is a good first step. We will take lots away from this race to work on and get better each week”, said Humphries, who has eight career podiums in Lake Placid.
It was the 32-year-old Humphries’ 20th career World Cup victory and third title on the 1,455-metre monster in Lake Placid. One of her two World Championship crowns also came at the 1980 Olympic venue. The victory brings her World Cup medal total to 44.
“I really like this track. This is where I learned to drive in 2006. It is a driver’s track and it suits my style,” added Calgary’s Humphries. “You need to be focused, pay attention and look ahead on this track because it is fast. It is rough. The corners aren’t big so it causes what we say ‘whipping’ which requires a lot of trust to be on the right line. It takes experience to drive this track well, but from the first time I drove it, I have loved it.”
Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., has pushed Humphries to six of those victories and 15 World Cup podiums since the 26-year-old farm girl planted her seeds in the sport four years ago.
“It’s always fun to win and to start the season off with a win makes it even better. It is nice to get a victory in Lake Placid where the Americans have dominated,” said Lotholz. “It was great to get back into race mode and shake off the dust from the off-season. It was a good overall race and one step forward in the process this year.”
The Canadians were once again in a grudge match with their top American rivals, Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs.
“I had some trouble with my feet on the start block in the first run (because it was chewed out), but we worked together and talked it through with our push coach, Morgan Alexander, between heats and were able to really improve on things in the second start,” said Lotholz.
Rebounding from the challenging start to post the fastest down time in the first run, the Canucks were the only sled amongst the leaders to improve on the final run start time, bettering their time by .06, which propelled them to the first victory of the season.
“We were both a bit rusty on the first start, but we made the changes we needed to make on the fly. It doesn’t feel good to get out pushed and we don’t like seeing big differences in start times from each run, but it was a huge improvement on our second time and a good start,” added Humphries.
The American sled of Meyers Taylor and Gibbs were forced to settle for second place at 1:54.43. Germany’s rookie team of Stephanie Schneider and Lisa Marie Buckwitz clocked a bronze-medal time of 1:54.60 to secure their first World Cup podium.
The statement made by the Canadians didn’t end with the country’s top sled. Two of Canada’s NextGen pilots, Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.) and Alyssia Rissling (Edmonton) stormed into the top-seven.
De Bruin teamed up with Toronto’s powerful Cynthia Appiah for the first time to post a career-best finish, clocking a sixth-place time of 1:54.99.
Deadlocked in sixth place after the first trip down Mt. Hoeverden, de Bruin topped the 28-year-old Rissling in the final heat.
Rissling and rookie brakeman, Kristen Bujnowski of Mount Brydges, Ont., clocked-in at 1:55.17 for seventh spot.
The World Cup continues on Friday with the men’s skeleton and the second men’s two-man bobsleigh race.