Kaillie Humphries celebrates U.S. citizenship with narrow win over Canada's Appiah
Alberta's Christine De Bruin 7-100ths of a second off medal podium in 4th
For Kaillie Humphries, this was a win unlike any other.
Capping an unforgettable week, the Calgary native Humphries won a women's monobob race on Saturday, doing so less than 48 hours after she completed a 12,000-mile round trip from Germany to the United States and finished the process of gaining citizenship.
It was the 44th international victory of her career on various circuits and at various levels, plus her 12th as a member of the U.S. bobsled team, and her first as an American citizen.
"My first win, officially, as an American," she said on the medals stand in Altenberg, Germany, with her hand over her heart, just a few seconds after realizing she had prevailed.
WATCH | Humphries wins gold in 1st World Cup race since gaining U.S. citizenship:
Humphries had to rally to get the victory. She finished two runs in two minutes 0.57 seconds, just 6-100ths of a second faster than Cynthia Appiah of Toronto, who held the lead after the first heat and earned her first medal as a pilot on the World Cup circuit. Laura Nolte of Germany was third, 0.53 seconds back of Humphries.
The week wasn't easy: Humphries was in six different beds in six nights and had the halfway-across-the-world trip squeezed in, with her Olympic hopes hinging on the outcome of the citizenship process. She acknowledged Saturday not knowing if she would be eligible to compete at the Beijing Games had taken a toll.
Without citizenship, Humphries, a three-time Olympic medalist who came to the U.S. team three years after gaining her release from her native Canada, had no path to the Games this winter. Now, she's going to be a medal favourite.
"I'd wake up and wonder why I'm doing this, days where I lacked motivation," Humphries said. "When things get hard you start to doubt, and when you don't have the Olympics as the end goal that you're fighting for, those doubts creep in. I love what I do, but being able to wake up today and not have the stress of not knowing whether or not I'd be able to compete in the Olympics was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."
3rd at Olympic test event
Appiah, 31, said delivering a podium finish on a daunting, 17-corner track was special.
"To win a medal on any track means a lot, but to do it in Altenberg where there is a lot of fear behind it for everyone and not as jovial in the start house, is huge," she said in a statement released by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. "Winning a medal on a hard track against way more experienced pilots means so much."
In late October, Appiah gave fans a glimpse of her potential on the bobsleigh track in Beijing if given the opportunity to return for Olympic competition in February.
WATCH | Appiah captures 1st World Cup medal as pilot:
She blazed to a two-run time of 2:10.46 in the Chinese city for third place at a Winter Games test event, the first career podium finish for the 31-year-old as a pilot at the elite level.
Competing full-time on the World Cup circuit this season, Appiah also placed in the top five in the opening two World Cup monobob races in Igls, Austria.
"I could just feel this building in the last couple of weeks. I really wanted to get a medal in Igls, and to be just off the podium in both races, I told myself, 'It has got to happen in Altenberg,'" said Appiah, who finished fifth at the world championships last season. "To finally exorcise those demons and get on the podium, I can now breathe a sigh of relief and just go forward."
On Saturday, Appiah carried a 9-100ths of a second lead into the final run and the last sled to leave the start block in the final heat.
"Being the last one in the start house [in the final run] is a big deal, but I try not to let the weight of the situation play into my mind," she said. "It is something I need to get used to and learn how to deal with that silence before hearing the roar of the crowd, but today it was more about knowing that 'I'm on Altenberg' and never losing focus on that."
Germany's Friedrich extends 2-man podium streak
Christine De Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., finished 7-100ths off the medal podium in fourth (2:01.17) on Saturday after sitting third after her opening run, while Melissa Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., was 18th of 19 finishers in 2:06.53.
Monobob will make its Olympic debut at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.
In the two-man race later Saturday, Francesco Friedrich of Germany rallied to win again and extend his streak to 35 consecutive World Cup two-man races with a medal.
Friedrich and Alexander Schueller were only third after the first heat, then had a blistering second run and prevailed in 1:49.96. Johannes Lochner and Christopher Weber were second for Germany in 1:50.20 and the Russian sled of Rostislav Gaitiukevich and Mikhail Mordasov was third in 1:50.23.
Friedrich now has 66 medals — 51 gold, 11 silver, four bronze — in his last 70 major international two- and four-man races including World Cup events, the Olympics and the world championships.
Canadian men 4th, 6th
Vancouver's Chris Spring and Ottawa's Mike Evelyn slid to fourth for their best finish together.
4th place finishes usually sting a little, but this one felt a little different. I'm really proud of the team and the performance today. We'll be back tomorrow fighting for medals in the 4man race. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/teamcanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#teamcanada</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bobsleigh?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#bobsleigh</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/altenberg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#altenberg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/worldcup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#worldcup</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DBG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DBG</a> <a href="https://t.co/NvyCiCOLFx">pic.twitter.com/NvyCiCOLFx</a>—@Spring_Chris_
The Canadian duo clocked a time of 1:50.37 on a track that has troubled Spring, a three-time Olympian, throughout his career.
"I'm really proud of the team this week. It's always tough for me coming here and we'll take a lot of confidence out of today's results," he said. "It takes five people to have a great two-man result, and all of them on Team Spring can take pride in this result."
Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., and Ryan Sommer of White Rock, B.C., slid to sixth in 1:50.66.
Competition continues Sunday with the women's race and the four-man event.
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With files from CBC Sports