It’s almost becoming reality TV: Who will get the rose from Kaillie Humphries to ride in her sled and compete for bobsleigh gold at the PyeongChang Olympics?
In the past, it’s been Heather Moyse, with whom Humphries won gold at both the Vancouver and Sochi Games. But when Moyse retired following the 2014 season, it appeared as though the chance at a golden three-peat was gone.
Plot twist. Last month Moyse announced her comeback, only this time she hoped to team with Edmonton driver Alysia Rissling. This came as a surprise to Humphries, who months earlier had had her own invitation to Moyse to turned down.
Now as the World Cup season nears and the drama intensifies, Humphries says she isn’t ruling out having Moyse in her sled should the situation allow.
“I’m open to any scenario,” Humphries said. “I want the best brakeman behind me regardless of personal feelings or attributes. I want numbers and stats and I want the best person in my sled.”
Moyse has said she wants to make one last Olympic push to help inspire and motivate the next wave of bobsleigh athletes in the country.
“It’s about investing in the future generation of athletes,” Moyse told CBC Sports in September. “Yes, my aim is to make the team. Ideally I’d like to make qualification, get in a sled and help a young driver succeed.”
That young driver she’s identified is Rissling of Edmonton. Rissling emailed Moyse in August to consider a comeback.,
“I had never met her, but I was intrigued by how passionate and determined she was,” Moyse said. “It made me think that a comeback is within the realm of possibility and if I can help — then I’m going to try.”
While Humphries and others prepare for the World Cup season, Moyse continues her comeback in Calgary, trying to regain her strength. Right now it’s about building muscle because she’s essentially been away from the gym and training for more than three years.
Humphries says she’ll start the World Cup season with Melissa Lotholz as her brakeman. The two have spent the past three seasons racing together and just missed winning gold at last season’s world championships. But Humphries has also traveled down the track with Cynthia Appiah. And there’s also Canadian track star-turned bobsleigh athlete Phylicia George in the mix.
“Melissa and Cynthia are very close,” Humphries said. “They both have and bring different qualities. Those are the top two girls we have the program currently right now.
“Phylicia has a lot of what I don’t have. The speed. The stride length. I can bring the strength. She also brings the experience. She’s been to two Games. She knows how to prepare herself.”
Basically, each World Cup is now a tryout to see who can post the best times and win the right to slide with Humphries at the Games. And if that wasn’t enough pressure, the team is also holding what they’re calling “pushoffs.” They did two pushoffs at Whistler earlier this year.
“In the first two tests in Whistler, Melissa was victorious by 1/100th of a second,” Humphries said. “And that matters. Every hundredth counts. At the end of the day though chances are I’ll be doing World Cups with both of them.”
Both Humphries and Moyse have talked about the “competitive environment” this situation has created and they believe it will make everyone better. Moyse is still a number of weeks away from going down the track and testing her strength and speed. In the interim, the other athletes will try and prove their belong in the sled with Humphries.
Humphries is making very clear it isn’t about personalities.
“It’s not about who I like better,” she said. “I don’t care how you brush your teeth or if we can room together. I don’t care about anything other than your strength and speed.”
She also says it’ll be a collective decision reached between athletes and coaches that will inevitably determined who is in what sled.
“That’ll be up to the coaching staff. None of these decisions will be solely left to the athletes,” Humphries said. “That’ll be left to Bobsleigh Canada as a whole.”