Kaillie Humphries grabs big monobob lead in search of 1st Olympic medal as American

Competing for the first time in the Olympics as an American citizen, Calgary-born Kaillie Humphries has grabbed control of the inaugural monobob competition at the Beijing Olympics.

Canada's Christine De Bruins sits 2nd through 2 heats, more than 1 second behind

Kaillie Humphries, representing the United States, leads the inaugural Olympic monobob event halfway through the competition in Beijing. (Dmitri Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

Usually at the midway point of an Olympic women's bobsleigh race, the standings are super close.

Not this one.

Kaillie Humphries' first day of Olympic competition for the United States was a runaway, putting the American in complete control of the inaugural women's monobob race. She leads Christine de Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta. — her former teammate — by 1.04 seconds, by far the biggest halftime lead in Olympic women's bobsleigh history.

"It wasn't perfect," Humphries said.

WATCH | Humphries slides to lead at halfway point:

Competing for the U.S., Kaillie Humphries opens up big lead in 1st Olympic monobob event

10 months ago
Duration 4:55
Competing for the first time in the Olympics as an American citizen, double-Olympic women's bobsleigh champion and reigning monobob world champion Kaillie Humphries has a 1.04 second lead over Canada's Christine de Bruin, after two of four runs in the inaugural Olympic monobob competition.

The standings suggest otherwise. The five previous women's bobsleigh competitions at the Olympics — all of them being the two-person variety, unlike this new driver-only discipline — have seen the midpoint leader ahead of the field by an average of 0.16 seconds. The biggest halftime lead ever was 0.29 seconds.

That is, until Sunday. Nobody was within 0.30 seconds of Humphries in the first heat, nobody was within 0.36 seconds of Humphries in the second heat. She'll return to the track at the Yanqing Sliding Center on Monday morning, knowing she's two clean runs away from what would be the third gold medal of her career.

"You pretend like today didn't exist and have a fresh race tomorrow," Humphries said. "Easier said than done, I can promise you that. But at the end of the day, I've had practice at doing it. And I've won, and I've lost in this position. And tomorrow is a brand new day. ... I have to continue to put my best foot forward."

De Bruin's time was 2:10.14.

"It's a consistency race," de Bruin, 32, said. "Anything can happen."

WATCH | de Bruin sits silver with 2 heats to go:

Christine de Bruin in 2nd midway through Olympic monobob competition

10 months ago
Duration 3:55
Christine de Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., was 1.04 seconds behind leader Kaillie Humphries of the United States following the second of four runs in the inaugural Olympic women's monobob competition.

Laura Nolte of Germany was third in 2:10.32, and three-time Olympic medallist Elana Meyers Taylor of the U.S. was right in the medal hunt — her time of 2:10.42 putting her fourth.

"It's a huge lead," Nolte said of Humphries' margin. "She was the one with the fewest mistakes, or nearly no mistakes."

de Bruin, who won two World Series races this season, had the same start times in both runs, but cut a tenth of a second off her time in her second.

"My first run wasn't really that great but I was able to clean it up for the second run, so I think that's kinda what did it for me today," she said.

The Canadian was excited to be in medal contention at the Olympics.

"Last year, my very first competition, I got last place, so to come out here and be in second — right now, anyway — is pretty amazing."

4 women in mix for podium

Barring a big mistake by somebody, it looks like four women remain in the mix for the three medals. They'll be decided on Monday morning in Beijing, late Sunday night in the United States, right after the Super Bowl broadcast. The gap between Meyers Taylor and fifth-place Huai Mingming of China is nearly a half-second.

"I know I can drive this track better," Meyers Taylor said. "I'm really just going to go tomorrow to try and have some fun. I drive the best when I'm having some fun. And with everything that's been going on, I have not enjoyed myself. So tomorrow, I'm just going to let it roll and see what happens."

The Olympic experience, so far, has not gone as Meyers Taylor wanted. She tested positive for COVID-19 and had to give up the role as U.S. flagbearer for the opening ceremony. She was isolated and separated from her family. Her son, who turns 2 later this month, is usually by her side almost constantly; their visits have been limited to just a few minutes a day, if that, in Beijing because of virus protocols.

Challenge to get to Beijing as American

Humphries raced in three Olympics for Canada. She and Meyers Taylor are the only three-time medallists in women's bobsleigh history; for Humphries, the haul has been two golds and one bronze.

And now she has a chance at two medals in Beijing, with women having two bobsleigh events on the Olympic program for the first time. She and Meyers Taylor were the athletes who led the fight for a second medal event, something that men's bobsledders have had for decades.

"It took a team, a village, a country to get here," Humphries said.

Simply getting to Beijing was a challenge for Humphries on many levels. She left the Canadian program three years ago and began driving for the U.S.; in World Cup races and world championship events, she didn't need citizenship to do so. But for the Olympics, she needed a U.S. passport — a process that she was told could take four years, and if true, would have rendered her ineligible for Beijing.

But the passport was acquired with just a few weeks to spare. And then she tested positive for COVID-19 last month, further threatening her Olympic hopes.

Now, passport in hand, virus issues behind her, all Humphries has to worry about is the sliding. She skipped the final day of training Saturday, hoping she'd done enough to get ready and trying to give herself a bit of rest before the first day of competition.

So far, so good. Day 1 could not have gone any better.

"It's not lost on me," Humphries said. "I know what it means to represent the United States. I am so proud and honoured to be able to be here."

With files from CBC Sports

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