WHISTLER, B.C.—Canada’s bobsleigh athletes dominated the podium with a gold-silver finish in the two-man race before capping off a four-medal day for the program with another women’s title at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday night.
Calgary’s Chris Spring and Edmonton’s Neville Wright edged out teammates Justin Kripps (Summerland, B.C.) and Alex Kopacz (London, Ont.) for top spot on the two-man podium. Calgary’s Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz (Barrhead, Alta.) put the icing on the top of a stellar night for the Canucks with their second victory, and third straight medal, in the young World Cup season.
“I just wanted to put two good runs down that I could be proud of,” said Spring. “It has been a great week of sliding. I feel we had a great program coming into the race and I knew that it was going to be a tight race. We pushed each other this week to be better. It was great stuff for Canada.”
Spring and Wright clocked a two-run time of 1:44.17. It was the fourth career two-man medal for Spring, and second victory. He also won the two-man race two years ago with Lascelles Brown on his brakes. His first of three World Cup four-man medals also came in Whistler.
“I just feel so much at home here,” said the two-time Olympian, who spends much of his summer in Whistler. “The people are great here. At the top of the track warming up, I’m looking at the mountains and feel at home and amongst nature. It makes me feel so thankful to be here and living this life and that is showing in the results.”
It was the ninth career World Cup medal for the 36-year-old Wright, and third ever in the two-man event.
“I knew we could do this today, and it feels amazing to get this done,” said Wright. “We have such a strong group of brakemen in this program. Any one of us feels like we can come in here and get the job done. We are pushing each other and that is showing.”
It was the second-straight two-man silver medal for the 30-year-old Kripps and Kopacz, 27, since they joined forces two weeks ago in Lake Placid. It was the eighth career medal for Kripps, and sixth in the two-man discipline.
“We got our first medal in Whistler. We could have won that race today, but I made some mistakes,” said Kripps. “I was happy we still managed to get the silver. I’m glad a Canadian won. Spring was really good today.”
Sitting in fourth spot after the first descent down the 1,450-metre track, the Canadian duo came up a hair short in their quest for gold after clocking-in at 1:44.19, just two-hundredths behind their Canadian comrades.
“I knew we could overtake the guys in front of us. I wasn’t sure about Spring because he was pretty far ahead, but we stepped up the push in that second run and gave it all we had. We were a little short, but that is bobsleigh. It was great racing.”
Kopacz, a professional engineer when not pushing bobsleighs down icy chutes around the world, celebrated his third career World Cup medal.
“It’s super exciting. If it wasn’t for Justin’s good driving we would have been hooped with that mistake on the first push,” said Kopacz, who added the sled started skidding during the load. “It’s the details that count and I think without that mistake we could have won this race. But to have two Canadians on the podium is great. We just have to keep this up all season.”
Latvia’s Oskars Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens grabbed the final spot on the podium at 1:44.26.
Lost in the Canadian celebrations was another top-10 finish by second-year pilot on the World Cup, Nick Poloniato. The Hamilton native joined forces with Lascelles Brown (Calgary) to post a seventh-place time of 1:44.53.
Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz Strike Gold in Women’s Bobsleigh
Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz capped off one of the most successful days in the history of the Canadian bobsleigh and skeleton program with a victory in the women’s bobsleigh race.
The Canadian duo extended their medal-winning streak to three in as many races this year after dusting the field with a time of 1:46.67. It was the 21st victory, and 46h career medal for Humphries, who remains unbeaten on the Whistler track since 2010 when she slid to her first of two Olympic medals.
“I love this track. It is a place I learned to drive on and I love everything about it. You have to be focused. She will eat you alive if you aren’t. She has gotten us all at one point, but I love competing at home in Canada, and I love Whistler,” said the 32-year-old Humphries.
The Canadians closed the gap on the Americans at the start and fought for every inch down the highly-technical 16-corner track.
“We know the Pyeongchang track will be a starters track so we are working everyday piece by piece on improving the starts,” said Lotholz, 26, following her seventh World Cup victory over the last four years. “It was a good night tonight. We are happy to get a win here at home.”
The Americans were hot on the heels of the Canucks, finishing second and third. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans slid to the silver medal at 1:47.15. Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones battled their way to a bronze medal at 1:47.50.
The two other Canadian sleds also found their way into the top-10. Alysia Rissling (Edmonton) and Cynthia Appiah (Toronto) finished seventh at 1:48.02. Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.) and Kristen Bujnowski (Mount Brydges, Ont.) placed ninth at 1:48.16.
It was a four-medal day for the Canadian squad with Jane Channell adding a silver medal earlier in the day in women’s skeleton.
“Canada is definitely on a roll,” added Humphries. “It is nice to start the season off in North America. We have a lot of new faces in the program that are bringing new energy. The veterans need to keep leading the way. Together we are going to fight right to the end.”
The World Cup continues on Saturday with the men’s skeleton race, followed by the four-man bobsleigh competition.