Kaillie Humphries takes 3rd in four-man bobsled debut

Kaillie Humphries

Kaillie Humphries took third in her first four-man bobsled competition at the Canadian Championships in Calgary over the weekend, another step in her quest to be the first woman to drive a four-man sled on the World Cup tour.

The International Bobsled Federation (FIBT) made four-man bobsled gender neutral beginning this season, a rule amendment Humphries pushed for even before she won her second straight Olympic gold in Sochi.

Humphries hopes to pilot a sled with three men’s push athletes against other four-man sleds on the World Cup tour, beginning in Lake Placid, N.Y., in December. U.S. Olympic silver medalist Elana Meyers Taylor is pursuing the same goal (Meyers’ U.S. selection races are this coming weekend).

On Sunday, Humphries was beaten only by two of Canada’s Olympic drivers in Sochi — Justin Kripps and Chris Spring. The race marked Humphries’ fifth and sixth runs ever in a four-man sled.

Humprhies’ two-run time of 1 minute, 52.1 seconds was 1.19 seconds behind Kripps and .73 behind Spring. The men’s drivers who finished behind Humphries were inexperienced internationally.

Finishing no lower than third was key for Humphries, given Canada can enter three four-man sleds in World Cup races.

“The ultimate goal is four years from now [2018 Olympics, presumably] so there are a number of steps we need to take together including qualifying for the World Cup, but overall this was a good first step and fun,” Humphries said, according to Bobsleigh Canada.

In order to qualify to compete on the World Cup circuit, Humphries still has to compete in five international races on three different tracks to meet FIBT rules.

Humphries and her team are scheduled to compete at the first four North America Cup races later this month in Park City, Utah and Calgary. There are international races in Europe before the first World Cup in Lake Placid that Humphries could enter to satisfy the FIBT requirement.

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”