Bobsleigh

Kaillie Humphries not deserving of men's bobsleigh spot, some say

Two-time Olympic women's bobsleigh gold medallist Kaillie Humphries is fighting for her right to compete with men, but not everyone thinks she deserves a spot on the Canadian team.

2-time Olympic women's champ hasn't met Canadian standard

Kaillie Humphries: Slippery Slope

6 years ago
2:22
Olympic women's bobsleigh champion in dispute with Canadian federation over racing 4-man bobsleigh. 2:22

Two-time Olympic bobsleigh gold medallist Kaillie Humphries has won a lot in her career, but right now she's in the midst of a losing battle.

If the Canadian had her way, she'd not only be piloting her two-person sled on the women's World Cup circuit, but also leading a four-man sled on the men's side.

Last season, Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States became the first women to pilot male crews in the World Cup, which has separate two-person competitions for men and women but only a "gender neutral" competition in the four-man.

The challenge Humphries faces is convincing Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, the sport's national governing body, that she deserves one of its World Cup spots. Canada has two international quota berths in four-man this season, and the IBST, the sport's world governing body, has awarded a third to Canada specifically for Humphries.

However, BCS' qualifying standards are higher than the IBSF's, and Humphries hasn't met them, leaving her feeling frustrated.

"I've never been in a situation where my goals and dreams have not aligned with Bobsleigh Canada's," Humphries told The Canadian Press earlier this month. "It's an extremely difficult situation for me currently at the moment."

Others don't think she should be treated as special case.

"A lot of women in our sport have been fighting for equality for a long time," says retired Olympic silver medallist Helen Upperton. "But we can't say we want equality and then in the same breath ask for special treatment. It just doesn't work that way."

Push to qualify

To meet the BCS standards for World Cup competition, bobsleigh athletes are tested on their push starts. The clock begins when the sled reaches the 15-metre mark, and athletes must hop into the sled somewhere between the 30- and 40-metre mark before the clock stops at 65 metres. For those 50 metres where the clock is running, female pilots must post a time of 5.60 seconds or less, and Humphries has done so with a time of 5.54 seconds this season. But the push standard for male pilots is 5.20 seconds or less (it's 5.15 for crewmen).

BCS said this past summer that it would only send one four-man team onto the World Cup circuit for the 2015-2016 season, which begins this weekend. That team, Canada 1, is piloted by Justin Kripps, and all four of its members have met the required push standards. Next in line to pilot a Canada 2 sled would be Chris Spring, who posted a better push time than Humphries and met the qualifying standard along with only one of his crewmen.

On Humphries' four-man team, the only athlete to have met the push standard is Lascelles Brown, a two-time Olympic medallist. This season Brown, who is now 41 years old, has pushed a 5.03.

Jesse Lumsden, a 2012 world championship silver medallist who is in the midst of a one-year hiatus and plans on returning next season, thinks everyone should be held to the same standards.

"If her name was Ken Humphries and she was third in the selection races with no push standard, she wouldn't make it. Period," said Lumsden. "When I come back I know what I have to do to qualify, and I'm not going to get any handouts. In my opinion that should be the only way." 

Some say Humphries's desire to compete in the four-man could be affecting her performance in the women's event, where she finished No. 1 in the world in the 2012-2013 and 2013-14 seasons before slipping to second last season behind Meyers Taylor.

Upperton believes Humphries should focus on a four-man women's event.

"As a woman I can understand wanting to continue to develop your driving skill in both disciplines and having more training and race opportunities on the World Cup," Upperton said. "But the objective cannot be to race against the men. It has to be about progressing the sport forward for women."

With files from The Canadian Press

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