BY TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports journalist
Kaillie Humphries wasn’t sure she would get a chance to race this season.
She landed on the top of the world – twice.
Humphries ended her international racing season on Sunday with a rally to win the first ever women’s monobob world championship in Altenberg, adding that gold medal to that she and Lolo Jones won together on the same track last weekend.
And now there is no question who the gold medal favorite will go into the Olympic season. For the first time, two medal events await female bobsledders at the games in Beijing next winter.
“To finish on a climax, I really keep thinking that I’m so grateful to be here,” said Humphries. “Representing the United States and being competitive is a great honor. And I look forward to going home and seeing my husband and dog. “
Moments later she jumped onto the medal stand amid a backdrop of snow-capped evergreen trees, wrapped herself in the American flag, and 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 Cup, her third in as many attempts since she was fired from the Canadian program and slipped for the US in 2019. If Humphries – a two-time Olympic gold medalist married to an American and now calling San Diego at home – is going to drive for the US at the Beijing Games next winter, she must be granted citizenship in the coming months.
“She’s the best woman driver in the world,” said longtime bobsleigh analyst John Morgan as Humphries finished her gold medal performance on Sunday.
Humphries’ last time for four runs over two days was 3 minutes and 59.62 seconds – half a second better than anyone else. She had the fastest time in each of the last three runs and finished with a record time of 59.47 seconds on the last run to take the gold.
“I’m so happy,” said Humphries. “That was one of my better runs. We only saved the best for last. “
Germany and Canada had sledges in the next six places behind Humphries, while the Germans took silver and bronze. Stephanie Schneider, who took the lead after the first two heats on Saturday, finished second in 4: 00.12. Laura Nolte stalled in the last run and finished third in 4: 00.42.
Mariama Jamanka finished fourth for Germany, followed by Canadian Cynthia Appiah fifth, German Kim Kalicki sixth and Canadian Melissa Lotholz seventh.
On average, these six German and Canadian sledges were 1.43 seconds behind Humphries. This leeway is enormous when gliding.
“Kaillie, she is without a doubt the best in the world, one of the best pilots in the world, men or women who ride the bobsled down the hill,” said US assistant coach Brian Shimer. “No question.”
Elana Meyers Taylor finished 15th for the USA, her medal hopes were dashed by a fall in the first run on Saturday.
Sunday marked the end of the great international sliding season for the US, which counted all three sports – bobsleigh, skeleton and luge. The US teams won 18 medals on the best international sliding courses this winter, all by women. All five Humphries medals were gold medals.
The US wasn’t sure until December whether it would go overseas to attend any events. These world championship races for bobsleigh and skeleton should have been held in Lake Placid, New York, for the past two weeks – and then because of the pandemic and the question of how or whether international sliders could get into the US, they moved to Germany
The American teams skipped the first half of the season and determined whether their sliders can safely keep up in Europe. They figured it out in time, and when Humphries got rolling for the past three weeks including the World Cup finals and the women’s bobsleigh title race last weekend, she was unstoppable.
“A historic day,” said Humphries. “I’m well pumped.”
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