Canada’s bobsleigh athletes celebrated one of the most successful days in the history of the program, pulling three medals out of the second World Cup stop in Park City, Utah on Friday evening.
For the first time in the history of the program, Canada celebrated two sleds on the four-man World Cup podium with Team Kripps storming into second spot, while Team Spring placed third. Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz, blazed the path to the podium earlier in the evening when they slid to the silver medal in the women’s bobsleigh race.
Sitting in 10th spot after his opening descent down the 1,355-metre track in Park City, Utah, Justin Kripps (Sumerland, B.C.) was rough and fast in his second bomb down the icy chute, catapulting himself into medal position. After posting the fastest down time in the second run at 48.29, the 30-year-old Kripps and his crew of Lascelles Brown (Calgary), Ben Coakwell (Saskatoon), and Neville Wright (Edmonton) sat in the leader’s box for most of the final heat where they watched the world fall short of their two-run time of 1:36.83.
“We climbed the latter today and it was awesome,” laughed Kripps following the race. “I think we got hit a bit by the weather in the first heat. In that second run, I was having trouble controlling the sled, but I think I hit that middle part of the track really good and just made up a lot of time on the field.
“Getting two sleds on the podium, and three in the top six, shows we clearly have some good depth in the program. It is great to see. I have personally done better in the two-man in the past, but to have success in the four-man is exciting. I want to be a podium threat in both.”
It was the sixth World Cup medal for Kripps in his career, and only his second in the featured four-man event. He also won a silver medal in the two-man event last weekend at the World Cup season-opener in Lake Placid.
Team Kripps shared the podium with his Canadian mates led by Calgary’s Chris Spring.
With his newly-formed crew of Jesse Lumsden (Burlington, Ont.), Alex Kopacz (London, Ont.), National Team rookie Seyi Smith (Ottawa) putting down the fastest start times in each of the two runs at 4.74 and 4.76, the 33-year-old Chris Spring also managed to climb one spot onto the podium in his final blast down the track to celebrate the bronze medal with a time of 1:36.86.
“It was an absolutely awesome day for Canada,” said Spring. “These guys behind me are ridiculous. I knew in the first heat we’d have the fastest start. This is a team everyone knows they are going to have to beat and the guys proved that. I enjoyed the ride down with these guys tonight. I had some trouble with corners one, two and three. If I can clean that up we can win that race tomorrow.”
While the German sled of Nico Walther, Kevin Kuske, Christian Poser and Eric Franke clocked a golden time of 1:36.80, the Canadian celebration didn’t end on the podium.
Hamilton’s Nick Poloniato, who is driving in just his second year on the World Cup, rocked a sixth-place time of 1:36.89 for his best-ever four-man finish. Poloniato, who placed fifth in the two-man event at last year’s World Championships, was teamed up with Cam Stones (Whitby, Ont.), Josh Kirkpatrick (London, Ont.), and Derek Plug (Calgary).
“We want to get excited about this as a team and we are going to celebrate this result, but at the same time, we understand it is a long year and we have to be hot all season long,” added Spring on his way to the medal ceremony.
The Canadian party got started under the lights on Friday night with the women also putting two sleds in the top-seven.
Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz (Barrhead, Alta.) backed up their season-opening victory with a silver-medal win on the 2002 Olympic Track in Utah.
Sitting in second spot after their first trip down the 1,355-metre track, Canada’s blonde bobsleigh bombers matched start times at 5.23 and the fastest down times at 50.40 with Americans Jamie Gruebel Poser and Lauren Gibbs to hang on for the silver-medal finish with a total time of 1:40.82.
“It was a really great day overall for our program and I’m happy we were able to get on the podium,” said Humphries, who pumped her fist at the finish line after matching the fastest second-run. “I was really happy with the second run. I hadn’t seen the times, but I knew the pushes were better and we held our spot.
“I’m trying to enjoy the process of competing as the stress gets higher. I need to remember it is just bobsledding so I want to make sure I’m having fun and be grateful for getting to do what I have a passion for doing. I was happy with how we did and showed that excitement when we crossed the line.”
It was the 45th World Cup medal for the 32-year-old Humphries, and fifth on the 13-corner track near Salt Lake City. Humphries has two of her 20 career World Cup victories along with three World Cup silvers in Utah. The 26-year-old Lotholz, of Barrhead, Alta., celebrated her 16th World Cup podium.
Grueble Poser and Gibbs finished on top with a time of 1:40.72. Their teammates, Elana Meyers Taylor and Lolo Jones, celebrated the bronze medal at 1:40.99.
Canada’s Alysia Rissling (Edmonton) and Kristin Bujnowski (Mount Bydges, Ont.) clocked a seventh-place time for the second-straight week at 1:41.98.
Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.), and Toronto’s Cynthi Appiah posted an 11th place time of 1:42.22.
The World Cup continues in Park City with men’s and women’s skeleton action, along with the second four-man bobsleigh race on Saturday.