Olympic women’s bobsled gold and silver medalists Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor hope to be pilots in four-man bobsled competitions, now that the sport’s international governing body is allowing women to drive with men’s push athletes in the discipline.
“I plan on doing every single World Cup,” said the two-time Canadian Olympic champion Humphries. “Now that they have opened the door, I plan on doing it from the very first race.”
The World Cup season begins in Lake Placid, N.Y., in December, but it’s not assured there will be any women driving four-man sleds there. For one, Humphries must earn one of the Canadian spots.
“There is no special treatment,” Humphries said. “I will have to put together my own team for selection races.”
Humphries believes her first time driving a sled in competition with three men’s push athletes will be at Canadian selection races around the end of October. Woman have previously only driven sleds built for two athletes in competition.
Humphries also hopes to drive in smaller four-man competitions in Canada and the U.S. before the World Cup season starts.
Humphries has tried to get the FIBT to either add a four-woman event or let her pilot a sled with men’s or women’s push athletes in a four-man race since before the Sochi Olympics. She’s been piloting a sled with men’s push athletes in push start training in a refrigerated facility in Calgary this summer.
Humphries understands the challenges of the heavier, longer four-man sled, having driven them on Canadian tracks in Whistler and Calgary. The risk is greater, putting an emphasis on minimizing mistakes.
“From a pilot’s point of view, my actual steers that I’m going to do are the same,” she said. “But the feeling of them, knowing they are amplified, is different.
“It’s basically like driving a big, huge, heavy truck versus a tiny little sports car on the road. I know I’m not going to be able to ride as close to the edge as I normally would.”
Meyers Taylor shared Humphries’ enthusiasm. She led the Sochi Olympic two-woman bobsled competition after three of four runs before being passed by her good friend and sometimes training partner Humphries in the finale.
“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to drive a 4-man,” Meyers Taylor said, according to The Associated Press. “Personally, I’m excited for a new challenge as an athlete and a bobsled pilot. This goes a long way to ensure more gender equality in our sport, which is very refreshing. I realize it will take a lot of work to compete at the highest level, but I’m ready to go for it.”
The first Winter Olympics in 1924 included four-man bobsled. In 1932, two-man bobsled debuted. In 2002, a two-woman event started. Four-woman bobsled has yet to get going on the World Cup circuit, which would be a precursor to Olympic inclusion.
“Chicken and the egg, [a four-woman race] has got to start somewhere,” Humphries said at the Sochi Olympics. “It’s an envelope that I know I’m pushing. I’m hoping not too soon, but we’ll see.”
Video of Humphries piloting a four-man sled in Whistler, via her agent (soundtrack: Pharrell‘s “Happy”):
Kaillie Humphries from Trackie Group Inc. on Vimeo.
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