History for Humphries, who won Olympic monobob gold for the United States
Kaillie Humphries crossed the finish line, jumped off her sled and tossed an American flag in the air.
“UNITED STATES! UNITED STATES!” she sang.
Four years ago, no one would have seen this coming. The former Canadian bobsleigh hero is an Olympic gold medalist for the third time – and for the first time, as an American citizen.
Humphries is the first Olympic monobob champion, finishing a surprisingly one-sided competition at the Beijing Games on Monday. She completed four races in 4 minutes, 19.27 seconds to lead a gold-silver medal for the US women’s program.
Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States was second in 4:20.81 – 1.54 seconds – for her fourth Olympic medal, one after taking a year off after the Pyeongchang Games to become a mother. Christine de Bruin of Canada was third in 4:21.03.
Humphries gave the medal a big kiss as he put it around his neck, then put his hand over his heart and sang along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” as it rang out in his honor.
Humphries became the first woman to win Olympic gold medals for two different countries and the first Olympian to win gold for the United States and Canada. She is also the first woman to win three gold medals in bobsleigh, with a chance of winning a fourth later this week in the two-man event.
It was the largest margin of victory – by far – in any of the six Olympic bobsleigh races contested by women, crushing the victory by 0.85 seconds that Humphries enjoyed in the two-man event of 2010 at the Vancouver Games.
And the last time an Olympic bobsleigh race saw such a wide margin between first and second place was 42 years ago, when Switzerland’s Erich Schärer won the two-man event at the Olympics. of Lake Placid in 1980 by 1.57 seconds.
Humphries was dominant, pure and simple.
“I pretend I’m not the best,” Humphries said. “That’s what makes me work so hard.”
Meyers Taylor is now a four-time medalist, giving her the most in U.S. bobsleigh history – breaking a tie with three others, including the great Steven Holcomb – and tying her for sixth all-time. of the United States Winter Olympics.
Apolo Ohno (eight), Bonnie Blair (six), Bode Miller (six), Eric Heiden (five) and Chad Hedrick (five) are the only American winter athletes with more medals. Meyers Taylor will challenge for a fifth medal later this week in the traditional women’s two-man bobsleigh event.
Like Humphries, Meyers Taylor also went through major hardships to get here. Concussions nearly derailed her career, then she took a year off to have her first child, a boy born with Down syndrome and significant hearing loss. And in Beijing, she did a stint in solitary confinement – spending more time away from her son than she had since he was born two years ago – after testing positive for COVID-19.
And it was only fitting that Humphries and Meyers Taylor finished 1-2, as they were the winners of a second medal event added to the Olympic women’s bobsleigh program.
Humphries won three medals in women’s bobsleigh – two gold, one bronze – for Canada, then joined the USA team in 2019 after saying she had suffered mental and emotional trauma and was unable to felt safer to be part of this program.
She made the switch knowing that the Beijing Games were not guaranteed: a passport is required in almost all circumstances to compete in the Olympics, and Humphries was told it could take four years. She had 2 and a half years to do so, and it only happened after some US lawmakers helped pave the way.
Finally, Humphries became a citizen in December after passing her final interview in San Diego, then returned halfway around the world the next day to join the World Cup circuit. More challenges expected: A hamstring injury slowed her down at the end of the World Cup season, then she tested positive for COVID-19 – a hurdle she didn’t fully overcome until early this month.
Everything is fine now.
Good as gold, in fact.
“We’ve worked so hard for this and been through so much,” Humphries’ husband Travis Armbruster said as he watched from their San Diego home. “I couldn’t breathe until she crossed the finish line.”
Humphries’ lead was 0.30 seconds after the first moto on Friday, and she left the track halfway through in full control – up 1.04 seconds. She was the first sled to hit the track on Saturday, and her time on that descent was four-tenths of a second slower than her best time on Friday.
Being slower could have made her rivals believe that the door of return was open.
This was not the case. Not even close.
De Bruin went from 1.04 seconds to 1.55 seconds after three runs. Laura Nolte of Germany went from 1.22 seconds to 2.05 seconds. Meyers Taylor was the only medal contender to advance, moving Nolte into third before the final run, but still losing time – nearly half a second – to Humphries.
At that time, the race was for the money.
The gold had been won. Kaillie Humphries made history. America had a new champion.
“That’s where she should be,” Armbruster said, “and how it should be.”
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