Kaillie Humphries to pilot women's crew against men in World Cup bobsleigh
Canadian team to race top competitors in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Canada's Kaillie Humphries will pilot a four-man bobsleigh on the World Cup circuit again, but with an all-female crew this time.
Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States became the first women to pilot male crews on the World Cup last season.
There is currently no separate four-woman World Cup race.
So Humphries, Melissa Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., Quebec City's Genevieve Thibault and Toronto's Cynthia Appiah intend to race head-to-head against the top international men's crews next Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The world governing body of bobsleigh, the FIBT, will stage an exhibition four-woman race at next month's world championship in Igls, Austria, which is another step towards giving the women a second medal to chase in Olympic bobsleigh.
Women's bobsleigh was introduced as an Olympic sport in 2002 as a two-person event, while the men continued to race two-man and four-man sleds. Humphries and Heather Moyse won women's gold in both 2010 and 2014.
Training runs in Lake Placid will mark the first time Humphries and her crew slide down a track together as a team. They spent Saturday in the Ice House at Canada Olympic Park practising their footwork and loading the sled while sprinting off the start line.
"The whole point of me competing with the guys in the first place was to show that girls can do four-man," Humphries said. "We're just kind of taking it one step further and having a full women's crew now.
"We've always wanted to have our own four-women event. Hopefully in doing this for this second half, the world will see, the other girls will see, the FIBT will see and Bobsleigh Canada that we can do this."
Humphries was furious with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton in November when the federation announced a single four-man sled would race in the first three World Cup races of the season.
Canada has two international quota berths in four-man, and the FIBT took the unusual step of awarding a third to Canada specifically for Humphries.
But under BCS's more stringent domestic standards, Canada didn't have enough brakemen qualified to fill two sleds, let alone a third, according to federation president Sarah Storey.
Humphries had lobbied the FIBT hard to open the door for her and women in the four-man sled. The FIBT announced in September, 2014, that the four-man event would henceforth be "gender neutral" which opened the door for mixed teams.
Humphries is intent on becoming one of the world's top four-man pilots in addition to defending her Olympic title in Pyeonchang, South Korea, in 2018.
Enough brakemen reached BCS standards in testing this past week to fill a second sled for the back half of the season. Justin Kripps of Kelowna, B.C., will drive Canada 1, while Calgary's Chris Spring is the Canada 2 pilot.
When it became clear to Humphries there wouldn't be enough qualified brakemen to fill a Canada 3 sled, the 30-year-old Calgarian pitched to BCS the option of an all-female team and the federation green-lighted it Thursday.
"This falls in line with what we envisioned. Canada was heavily involved in getting women's bobsleigh into the Olympics," BCS high-performance director Chris Le Bihan said.
"Kaillie with her strong personality and technical skills is the perfect person to lead the charge. It's also providing more opportunities for our women to compete in more events."
Humphries and Lotholz won two of the first three women's World Cup races this season and finished third in the other.
Humphries' wish to return to four-man World Cup races has been granted, but her team will be at a considerable weight and size disadvantage in the start house in Lake Placid.
Male brakemen are built like football linebackers to generate speed and power off the start line.
"We're going to go out and do the best we can and it would be amazing if we can beat some of the tiny, tiny nations that aren't necessarily the best in bobsleigh with the women's crew," Humphries said. "That's one of our internal goals, to beat one men's team at some point."
Lotholz, Thibault and Appiah will rely heavily on Humphries' leadership and her previous experience on four-man to prepare them on the fly to race Saturday.
"We're going from the second day ever pushing in the ice house as a four-man team to next week we're competing at a World Cup level with the men," Lotholz said. "It's the most massive learning curve you can possibly imagine."