Kaillie Humphries, Lolo Jones win historic bobsled world championship


Kaillie Humphries and Lolo Jones winning a bobsled world championship together would have been an impossible idea two years ago.

Humphries was a Canadian Olympic legend. Jones, an American, thought she would never ride in a sled again.

But on Friday and Saturday, Humphries piloted and Jones pushed the fastest two-woman bobsled in the world. They prevailed by .35 of a second over Germans Kim Kalicki and Ann-Christin Strack combining times from four runs in Altenberg, Germany.

Jones, one of 10 U.S. athletes to compete in both a Summer and Winter Olympics, earned the most prestigious title of her career on either type of track at age 38.

“I didn’t think I would be emotional,” Jones said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “I don’t know if the snow was hitting me at the braking stretch or if I was crying, but I think I was crying.”

Humphries, the 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medalist, became the first four-time world champion in the event. Her sled runners were formerly used by 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb, who died in 2017.

“This one is very unique,” said Humphries, a 35-year-old who broke her tie with retired German Sandra Kiriasis for most women’s world titles. “To be able to partner with Lolo, to know she had faith in me and be able to come back to bobsled and for us to be able to work together to achieve this, it wasn’t without hardships, for sure. I think a lot of people, at some point in our career, we’ve both been written off by quite a few people.”

A seed was planted at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. There, Humphries took bronze for Canada with Phylicia George, who like Jones converted from Olympic hurdler to bobsled push athlete. They had more in common. Jones and George trained together on the track in Baton Rouge, La.

Jones, who made the 2014 U.S. Olympic bobsled team, was left off in 2018. Nevertheless, she became a topic of conversation between the Canadians in South Korea.

“I’d always been really jealous, being part of the Canadian team, of the U.S. team having Lolo,” Humphries said.

Humphries didn’t compete at all in the 2018-19 season. In September 2019, she revealed an estrangement from the Canadian program for more than a year after filing harassment and abuse claims against a coach. Humphries was granted release from Canada and, having married American bobsledder Travis Armbruster, joined the U.S. program.

Around that time, Humphries messaged Jones on Instagram, lobbying her to give bobsled one more try. Jones was at lunch and nearly dropped her phone in shock.

Lolo Jones

“I was very honest with her. I was like, that’s like me trying to walk back in the lions’ den,” Jones said. “So, it took her a few messages, but I’d be an idiot if I said no to her because who wouldn’t want to be a teammate with Kaillie Humphries? She’s like the Usain Bolt of bobsled.”

There was one more pesky obstacle: Tokyo. Jones was training for one last Summer Olympic bid. So she didn’t return for Humphries’ debut season as an American in 2019-20. Humphries did just fine without her, winning four of seven World Cup starts, plus the world championships (also in Altenberg).

Three weeks after bobsled worlds, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021. Jones swerved and joined an MTV reality show (for a two-sport star, it was aptly named “The Challenge: Double Agents”). After its conclusion, she pretty much went straight to bobsled camp. She reverted to her old bobsled diet — burgers, pizza and protein shakes — to put on 20 pounds to be ready for the season on three weeks of sport-specific training.

“I wondered if I would even have a chance to be able to crack into the circle with no proper prep,” was posted on her Instagram before she was named to the national team after selection races. “I communicated to the coaches and driver my concern about returning in such a unprepared state. But I said eff it. I’ve faced bigger odds than this so regardless of training or prep I’m going to try to make this team.”

Humphries and Jones were paired together for the first time last week and won (Jones’ first World Cup victory in three years). A selection committee kept the pair together for the world championships. Humphries began driving a new sled this week and took five runs in practice before competition began Friday. She still beat all of the top German teams on one of their home tracks.

“She’s pretty much a sniper,” Jones said. “She doesn’t overlook anything, and she’s just really accurate. She’s a really good executioner.”

Humphries still must gain U.S. citizenship to become Olympic eligible.

“That’s outside my control. All the paperwork’s in. Everything’s good to go. I know Covid stalled a lot of the government stuff,” she said. “We’re currently in the process of trying to figure out exactly where things are, but things take time. And getting answers takes time.”

For Jones, time is running out. She is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic female bobsledder in history. She hopes to win that elusive Olympic medal next February in Beijing, where in 2008 she led the Olympic 100m hurdles final when she clipped the penultimate hurdle and stumbled to seventh place.

“Nothing would mean more to me than to face my fears of 12 years of being ridiculed for not getting an Olympic medal, to going back to the same place where everybody said I blew it, everybody called me a failure all these years, and being successful,” Jones said before the season, according to The Associated Press.

On Saturday, hours after her bobsled triumph, Jones was asked if track and field was still part of her future.

“I can’t make those decisions right now,” said Jones, whose greatest international achievements in track were world indoor 60m hurdles titles in 2008 and 2010. “I just want to celebrate today, celebrate this win, because it’s been 11 years since I’ve been on the top of a podium.”

Earlier Saturday, German Francesco Friedrich took the lead by .88 halfway through the two-man event. Friedrich, who took gold in both events at the 2018 Olympics, seeks a seventh consecutive world title in the event on Sunday.

The U.S. men skipped worlds, opting to return home to focus on preparation for next season.

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Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open

Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina became the first player to reach the fourth round. She won 6-0, 6-1 over 69th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA champion from Texas.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is the lone American woman left in the bottom half of the draw. She plays Kazakh Yulia Putintseva later Friday. Gauff, Bernarda Pera and Kayla Day remain in the top half.

Friday’s featured men’s matches: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz versus 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His South Carolina-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from South Carolina and with him for meet travel.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Francique is based in Texas. He moved from Texas to South Carolina.

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