Canada wins gold, silver in women’s bobsled
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An odd couple brought together by an odd twist, bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse pumped up Canada’s Olympic pride.
Sliding on home ice, down a diabolical track that has only grown more fierce since the Vancouver Games opened, they found their way to the bottom fastest.
These two own the podium. And gold medals.
Canada grabbed some silver, too.
Humphries, beaten by Moyse four years ago for a Olympic job as brakeman, won the women’s bobsled Wednesday to give the host nation its seventh gold of the games and Canada its first since the sport debuted in 2002.
Blasting down Blackcomb Mountain in Canada-1, Humphries and Moyse finished their four runs in 3 minutes, 32.28 seconds — 0.85 seconds ahead of Canada’s Helen Upperton and 1.12 seconds better than American Erin Pac, who won bronze.
Four years ago, Upperton and Moyse just missed winning a bronze, finishing 0.05 seconds behind Italy.
This more than makes up for it.
Upperton and teammate Shelley-Ann Brown were positioned for a third-place finish but moved up in the standings when Pac had some trouble on her final run.
When Pac’s time flashed on the scoreboard, Upperton and Brown both dropped to their knees and covered their faces in joy as a pro-Canada crowd rocked.
If Humphries and Moyse were nervous, they did a nice job of disguising it. Sharing headphones, they sang and danced in the warm-up area behind the start deck before both of their Wednesday night runs.
They’ll soon be straining their vocal cords to “O Canada.”
Humphries came into the day with just a 0.11-second lead over Pac. Following the second run Wednesday, a confident — but not cocky — Humphries said she didn’t care who was chasing her.
“Bring ’em all,” she said.
None of ’em came.
Before they hit the track, Canada’s Mellisa Hollingsworth showed the way.
She finished a disappointing fifth in skeleton and during an emotional news conference a few days later said she would love to make one more slide during the Olympics. She got her wish: Riding her skeleton sled, Hollingsworth made a clean trip down the ice as one of the bobsled event’s forerunners.
“I’ve had people coming up and hugging me in the streets,” said Hollingsworth, who has received more than 6,000 e-mail and Facebook messages.
Humphries and Moyse may get the same love. They set a track record on their third run, swelling their advantage to 0.57 seconds over Pac. The only lead growing as fast was the one Canada’s hockey team was opening over Russia in their win-or-disgrace quarterfinal matchup.
On their last trip, over a course they’ve traversed hundreds of times, Moyse and Humphries barely had a wobble.
Upperton’s drive was solid, too, and she and Brown were guaranteed a medal when Germany’s Cathleen Martini crashed on the 13th curve. Her brakeman, Romy Logsch, was thrown from the sled and couldn’t control her arms and legs, making a giant “X” as she skidded along the ice.
Both were shaken but appeared uninjured.
Pac’s silver medal is the first in sliding in these games for the U.S. team, which is on track to foil Canada’s plans to “own the podium” and win the most medals in Vancouver.
“They should have gone 1-2,” Pac said of the Canadians. “They deserved it.”
The American team’s last hope for a win will come in the bobsled’s signature event as Steve Holcomb tries to end a 62-year U.S. drought without a gold in four-man.
American Shauna Rohbock, who labeled this lightning-fast course “stupid fast” after her first training run, finished sixth. Germany, which has already won nine medals in sliding events here, were shut out in bobsled for the first time as defending gold medalist Sandra Kiriasis was fourth.
“Oh, well,” said Rohbock, who won silver in 2006. “It’s not the Olympics that I dreamed of for four years. But life does go on. The U.S. got a medal today, and that’s what’s most important. Erin did a great job.”
Rohbock still didn’t seem convinced the track wasn’t too challenging.
“Sandra Kiriasis, best driver in the world I have to say, Cathleen Martini right there with her crashing, you know that something is not right when you have two of the best in the world, one crashing, one almost crashing, every run,” she said. “It’s definitely a very, very hard track.”
Humphries was an alternate brakeman four years ago in Turin, dropped to the role of spectator by Canada’s coaches in favor of Moyse, a former elite rugby player.
It didn’t help that Humphries had suffered a severe ankle injury in a freak accident at the world push championships in Mexico. She was running laps to get warmed up when she tripped over a garden hose and tore ligaments.
After watching from the side in Turin, she vowed her next Olympic experience would be different. On the return flight from Italy, she told her parents she wanted to drive and intended to go to school in Lake Placid to hone her skills.
Humphries has credited Canadian bobsled legend Pierre Lueders with making her a champion driver. A two-time Olympic medalist, Lueders walked tracks with Humphries, pointing out imperfections in the ice, looking for lines to travel, offering tips for finding speed. She soaked it in, listened and learned.
Moyse has a training regime that would make Rocky Balboa proud.
At a potato warehouse back home on Prince Edward Island, she puts her brother and nephew in the front seat of a car, shifts it into neutral and practices pushing the vehicle while playing “Eye of the Tiger” through a stereo. It has helped make her one of the world’s best pushmen.
Humphries and Moyse had the best start times in all 14 World Cup heats they competed in together this season.
Humphries is literally married to bobsled.
She met her husband, Dan, a pushman on Great Britain’s Olympic team in 2006, while she was training near her home in Calgary. The couple briefly considered competing for Britain, but she didn’t want to be too far from her family and decided to drive for her country.
Canada will be forever grateful.