Kaillie Humphries in dispute over racing 4-man bobsleigh
'It's an extremely difficult situation for me currently,' says Calgary native
Tension is building between Olympic women's bobsleigh champion Kaillie Humphries and her sport federation.
Humphries wants to pilot four-man sleds on the World Cup circuit in addition to her women's races. The Calgarian says Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton will not let her.
"I've never been in a situation where my goals and dreams have not aligned with Bobsleigh Canada's," Humphries said Wednesday. "It's an extremely difficult situation for me currently at the moment."
Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States were the first women to pilot male crews on the World Cup circuit last season.
The world governing body of the sport, the FIBT, ruled prior to the start of last season that four-man bobsleighs would be "gender neutral."
The move opened the door for the eventual inclusion of a four-woman bobsleigh event in the world championships and Winter Olympics.
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 lobbied hard for the door to open for her and other women in the four-man sled. She feels like her own federation is closing it on her again.
Canada has two international quota berths in four-man this season, and the FIBT took the unusual step of awarding a third to Canada specifically for Humphries.
But BCS has its own qualification standards that are more stringent than the FIBT's.
Athletes must achieve a certain push time in the ice house before World Cup selection races. Humphries piloted a four-man sled that finished third in selection races behind Justin Kripps and Chris Spring.
But there were not enough brakemen meeting BCS's push standards to fill two sleds, let alone a third, according to BCS president Sarah Storey.
"Every athlete that goes on the World Cup has to meet a push standard," Storey said. "To have a four-man crew, you need everyone on the team to have qualified."
Another way to explain the situation is international standards to qualify for Olympic Games are low to allow more countries to participate. But some countries such as Canada set much higher standards domestically to field more competitive teams and athletes.
"We don't send people on the World Cup to develop, we don't send them as tourists," Storey said. "We send them to win medals, to contend at every race."
Humphries ranked 18th in 4-man last season
Humphries finished last season ranked 18th out of 30 teams in World Cup four-man races. The women's Olympic champion in both 2010 and 2014 finished second to Meyers Taylor in women's racing.
Canada will start the season with a small team of 11 athletes. Kripps of Summerland, B.C., will pilot the only four-man sled. Kripps and Calgary's Spring will both pilot two-man sleds. Humphries was named the lone women's pilot.
The first World Cup stop is Nov. 21-30 in Altenberg, Germany. After the first three races, BCS will hold another round of selection trials in December.
Canada could add more crews for the second half of the 2015-16 season, but only if more brakemen meet BCS's standards.
Developing four-man skills to race at the sport's highest-level and become a better driver is vitally important to Humphries. The 30-year-old was tense and frustrated Wednesday at a team event at a Calgary pool.
After Canada's World Cup team was introduced, her teammates frolicked with synchronized swimmers while Humphries remained clothed on deck.
"This sucks," she said. "I don't feel as one of the best athletes in this sport that I should be questioned as to what's best for my personal learning curve."
Humphries says she will pilot four-man crews in developmental North America Cup races in Calgary on Friday and Saturday. She was unsure when she'll race four-man again.
"I'll more than likely be going World Cup for their first three races in the women's event," she said. "Then I will rely on my crew members to make standard. BCS has implemented a fairly harsh push standard that everybody has to abide by in order to make World Cup."
Humphries was Canada's lone bobsleigh medallist at the 2014 Winter Games. Canada didn't win any bobsleigh medals at this year's world championship.
Humphries feels funding pressure is behind her federation's inflexibility. While skeleton's Own The Podium funding increased for 2015-16, bobsleigh's has dropped by about $135,000, according to OTP figures.
"I'm being forced to pick medals over development of Canada 3," Humphries said. "I don't feel there needs to be a choice made here. I feel I can step up to the challenge of doing both."