Kaillie Humphries wants more Olympic gold — only this time in new colours

For three Olympics, Kaillie Humphries not only competed for Canada — she was a star. Now, she's swapped the Maple Leaf for the star-spangled banner heading into the Beijing Games. But Humphries says her mindset as a competitor remains unchanged.

Former Canadian champion set to slide in 1st Games as an American

Kaillie Humphries celebrates on the podium after winning the women's monobob race at the 2021 world championships. The bobsledder is set to compete at her first Olympics as an American in Beijing. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

For three Olympics, Kaillie Humphries not only competed for Canada — she was a star.

The bobsledder stood on the podium at all three Games, twice with a gold medal around her neck and once with bronze. 

After repeating as champions in the two-woman race at Sochi 2014, Humphries and brakeman Heather Moyse were named Canada's flag-bearers for the closing ceremony.

The Calgary native is set to make her fourth Olympic appearance in Beijing. But this time, she's adding blue to her red-and-white colour scheme as she races for the U.S.

"My feelings towards my Canadian teammates within the sport themselves are the same now as they were back then," Humphries told CBC Sports in a recent interview.

"And although, like I said, the clothing looks different, the mentality itself is very much of a competitor's mindset and it's me against the entire world."

Humphries sued for her release from Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) in August 2019, claiming a coach and management had violated the organization's own anti-harassment policies. One month later, a court ruled that BCS had the discretion to decide whether to allow one of its athletes to compete for another country. Soon after, BCS freed Humphries to slide for the U.S.

WATCH | Humphries slides to 2-woman gold at world championships for U.S.:

Kaillie Humphries claims second World Championship title for USA in bobsleigh

2 years ago
Duration 2:17
Kaillie Humphries and Lolo Jones claimed the women's bobsleigh world championship title for the USA Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

'Second lease on my life and on my career'

She now lives in San Diego and is married to former American bobsledder Travis Armbruster.

Humphries has competed as an American for three seasons. But her spot in Beijing during that time was always in question due to Olympic requirements that, in nearly every instance, athletes must hold citizenship in the country for whom they compete.

Humphries was sworn in as an American in December.

"I've had to fight for my citizenship in order to get to this position. I had to stand up for my own safety within sport in order to continue my career because there was no guarantee that I was going to be able to continue or have a career past that," she said. 

"So I am just beyond grateful to be able to be here and have this opportunity and to be able to compete for a team and a country that has provided me a second lease on my life and on my career."

Before her flight to Beijing, Humphries was staying in a Los Angeles hotel, where she underwent numerous COVID-19 tests and tried on American uniforms by outfitters Nike and Ralph Lauren in preparation for the Games. On Tuesday she revealed on Instagram that she had contracted COVID-19 but was recovered and ready to compete.

"I think the weirdest thing is just seeing different faces, seeing [snowboarders] Shaun White or Chloe Kim, seeing different athletes that I'm used to only seeing on TV, but seeing them in the hallways, that feels more surreal than trying on an American flag jacket," she said.

Humphries gets fitted in Polo Ralph Lauren during processing ahead of the Beijing Games. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images for USOPC)

In addition to her three Olympic medals, Humphries' decorated two-woman career in bobsleigh includes podium appearances in seven world championship events (four gold), eight overall World Cup seasons (four gold) and 57 World Cup races (28 gold).

She's the reigning world champion in both the two-woman and the monobob, a solo event that will make its Olympic debut in Beijing.

Uneven season

However, the 2021-22 season was uneven by Humphries' standards. In seven two-woman World Cup races leading into Beijing, she earned three medals (one gold, two bronze).

CBC Sports bobsleigh expert and 2010 Olympic silver medallist Helen Upperton said the decline may be in part due to age and a nagging hamstring injury.

"We've usually seen her basically on the podium almost every week, and this year has not been like that. So is she still a strong medal contender? For sure. But I don't think it's as big of, almost a given, as it was four years ago," Upperton said.

WATCH | Humphries takes World Cup monobob gold in Germany:

Kaillie Humphries golden in 1st World Cup race since gaining her American citizenship

10 months ago
Duration 2:03
Former Canadian bobsleigh world and Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won the women's monobob in Altenberg, Germany on Saturday. It was her first World Cup race since being sworn in as an American citizen on Thursday.

Humphries' fiercest competition in Beijing may come from American teammate Elana Meyers Taylor (ranked first in two-woman and monobob) and former Canadian teammates Christine De Bruin (fourth in both) and Cynthia Appiah (14th, third).

Humpries herself ranks fifth in two-woman and second in monobob on the season.

But Humphries said there will be no extra fire competing against Canadian sleds at the Olympics. Not only has she been doing it at other events for a while now, but her conflict was with the organization itself — not the athletes.

"At the end of the day, though, I am a competitor and I'm going to head out and do everything I can to be the very best that I can, and I truly do believe that that is the best in the world," she said.

"The ultimate success is being able to stand on top of the podium and sing my national anthem, sing the Star-Spangled Banner now."

Humphries will make her American Olympic debut when monobob kicks off bobsleigh events on Feb. 13 and 14. She'll return for the two-woman event from Feb. 18-19.

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