Kaillie Humphries cleared to bobsled at Olympics for U.S.

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Kaillie Humphries is now, officially, an American.

And just like that, the U.S. medal hopes in bobsledding at the Beijing Olympics just got much stronger.

The reigning world champion in both monobob and women’s bobsledding was sworn in as a citizen in San Diego on Thursday, ending her long saga to become an American and have the right to compete for the U.S. at the Olympics.

She does not yet have her passport, but that is likely to be little more than a formality. Without the passport, there was almost no chance the Canadian-born Humphries would have been allowed to slide at the Olympics.

“Most stressful morning ever, but it’s done,” Humphries told The Associated Press from the plane as she was leaving San Diego.

It was a whirlwind finale to the process. Humphries raced in a World Cup stop at Austria this past weekend. She got to Altenberg, Germany for this week’s race on Monday, did the two necessary training runs Tuesday that she needed to qualify for World Cup races this weekend, then made the 5-hour drive to Frankfurt for a Wednesday morning flight to San Diego.

Her citizenship meeting was Thursday, and not long afterward was back on a plane for the return to Europe.

“I think she’s super excited,” U.S. bobsled coach Mike Kohn said in a telephone interview from Germany. “She’s had a great couple of years with us. I think she’s going to just really shine now. I think, the uncertainty, it’s held her back a little bit. I think it’s held us all back.”

Humphries — a two-time Olympic champion and three-time Olympic medalist, all won for Canada — lives in San Diego, has held a green card and is married to an American, former bobsledder Travis Armbruster.

She won the right to slide for the U.S. in September 2019 after a lengthy and ongoing dispute with Canadian bobsled officials over claims of verbal abuse, mental abuse and harassment. Humphries left the Canadian team, she said, to seek a safer work environment.

Joining the U.S. team was not an easy decision, especially since she knew it did not come with a guarantee of being able to slide for the Americans at the Beijing Games — but was still a move she deemed necessary for her mental and physical safety.

She could have pursued the chance to slide for another country at these Olympics, but made the decision long ago that if she was going to Beijing she was going as an American.

Which, as of Thursday, she is.

Her resume is one of the best in the sport’s history: five world championships, 54 World Cup medals — 27 of them gold — and she’s the only women’s pilot to win two Olympic golds and drive to three medals at the Games.

Humphries won the world titles last season for the U.S. and has been allowed to compete in World Cup and world championship events for the Americans because different rules apply in those situations. Canada’s federation released her in 2019, clearing the path for her to slide for another country. But the Olympic rules are tighter and mandate that, in nearly every instance, an athlete have a passport of the country they are representing.

The International Olympic Committee could have waived that rule, but gave no indication it would do anything on Humphries’ behalf.

Now, the U.S. is likely heading to the Olympics with two drivers that can win medals — Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor. The addition of monobob to the women’s Olympic program means female bobsledders have two chances for medals now at the Games, like the men have had for decades.

The U.S. has won at least one medal in bobsledding in each of the last five Olympics.

“It’s going to inject some enthusiasm into the team,” Kohn said. “It’s going to let Kaillie be herself again. She’s had this on her mind all year. And now such a weight is off her shoulders.”

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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