Double gold: Humphries finishes off historic bobsled sweep

Kaillie Humphries wasn’t sure if she would get a chance to race this season.

She ended up on top of the world — twice.

Humphries ended her international racing season Sunday by rallying to win the inaugural women’s monobob world championship in Altenberg, Germany, adding that gold medal to the one she and Lolo Jones combined to claim on the same track last weekend.

And now, there is no question about who the gold-medal favorite is going into the Olympic season, with two medal events awaiting women’s bobsledders at next winter’s Beijing Games for the first time.

“To be able to end on a high, I really just continue to think that I am so grateful to be here,” Humphries said. “To be representing the United States and to be able to compete is such a huge honor. And I’m excited to go home and see my husband and my dog.”

Moments later, she hopped atop the medal stand amid a backdrop of snow-covered evergreen trees, wrapped herself in the American flag, then put her right hand over her heart as the sounds of “The Star-Spangled Banner” cut through the frosty air.

It was her fifth world championship, her third in as many tries since getting her release from the Canadian program and beginning to slide for the United States in 2019. If Humphries — a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is married to an American and now calls San Diego home — is going to race for the U.S. in next winter’s Beijing Games, she needs to obtain citizenship in the coming months.

“She’s the best driver in the world,” longtime bobsled analyst John Morgan said as Humphries was finishing off her gold-medal performance Sunday.

Humphries’ final time for four runs over two days was 3 minutes, 59.62 seconds — a half-second better than anyone else. She had the fastest time in each of the final three heats, finishing in style with a track-record time of 59.47 seconds in the final run to clinch the gold.

“I’m so happy,” Humphries said. “That was one of my better runs. We just saved the best for last.”

Germany and Canada had sleds finishing in the next six spots behind Humphries, with the Germans grabbing silver and bronze. Stephanie Schneider, the leader after Saturday’s first two heats, finished second in 4:00.12. Laura Nolte faltered in the final heat, taking third in 4:00.42.

Mariama Jamanka was fourth for Germany, followed by Canada’s Cynthia Appiah in fifth, Germany’s Kim Kalicki in sixth and Canada’s Melissa Lotholz seventh.

On average, those six German and Canadian sleds were 1.43 seconds behind Humphries. In sliding, that margin is enormous.

“Kaillie, she’s the best in the world, hands-down, one of the best pilots in the world, men or women, taking the bobsled down the hill,” U.S. assistant coach Brian Shimer said. “No question.”

Elana Meyers Taylor was 15th for the U.S., her medal hopes dashed by a first-heat crash on Saturday.

Sunday marked the end of the major international sliding season for the U.S., counting all three sports — bobsled, skeleton and luge. The U.S. teams won 18 medals on the top international sliding circuits this winter, all by women. All five of Humphries’ medals were golds.

The U.S. wasn’t sure until December if it would be going overseas to compete in any events. These world championship races for bobsled and skeleton were to have been held in Lake Placid, New York over the past two weeks — then moved to Germany because of the pandemic and amid questions about how, or if, international sliders would be able to come to the U.S.

The American teams wound up skipping the first half of the season while determining if their sliders could compete in Europe safely. They figured it out in time, and once Humphries got rolling over the past three weeks including the World Cup finale and last weekend’s women’s bobsled title race, she was unstoppable.

“A historic day,” Humphries said. “I am super pumped.”

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