Humphries rides Holcomb’s runners to world title
ALTENBERG, Germany — Americans Kaillie Humphries made history Saturday, Feb. 6, by winning the 2021 two-woman bobsled World Championship title.
Humphries is the first woman to ever win four world bobsled titles. She tied German Sandra Kiriasis’ record for three titles when she won last season.
Jones, a Winter and Summer Olympian who was focusing on hurdles before the Tokyo Games were postponed, earned her first career bobsled world title. Elana Meyers Taylor, competing in only her fifth international competition since having her son, Nico, and Sylvia Hoffman finished fifth for them United States.
It’s been almost four years since bobsled legend Steven Holcomb’s untimely death, but he was a part of today’s historic win. Humphries chose his runners to compete on today. Holcomb was, and still is, the winningest American bobsled athlete in history.
“A part of this was for him,” Humphries said.
“It’s really special that Holcy was still a part of this,” said USA Driving Coach Brian Shimer.
The victory wasn’t without challenge. Humphries and Jones started the final day of racing with the fifth best start time of 5.73 seconds, and Humphries guided the Omaze-branded sled to the finish in 57.45 seconds- third fastest of the heat. Team Germany was on the hunt, eager to take over the lead on their home track. Kim Kalicki and Ann-Christin Strack posted the fastest run time of 57.40 seconds, reducing the gap and putting pressure on the Americans going into the fourth and final heat.
“We’re not the youngest spring chickens out there right now, but Lolo and I have faith in each other,” Humphries said. “We believed in each other.”
Snow fell throughout much of the competition, and Jones had lingering glute pain from yesterday’s opening heats. Pulling from experience and relying on each other, Humphries and Jones put it all on the line in the final heat. The pair posted a start time of 5.74 seconds, and Humphries raced ahead to clock the fastest downtime of 57.87 seconds. The Amercians secured the win by 0.35 seconds with a four-run combined time of 3:48.26.
“I didn’t think I would be emotional,” Jones said. “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.”
“It’s such a huge relief,” Humphries said. “This was a giant team effort. To be able to cross the finish line and see that number one and know everything worked according to plan is the biggest relief ever. There’s a huge wave of happiness and elation that comes over you. It’s super cool to share this with Lolo and with Team USA.”
Jones, a successful hurdler and one of only 10 U.S. athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, said she understood the pressure Humphries felt going into this potentially historic day.
“I’m the first hurdler to win back-to-back golds in indoor, so I know the pressure that Kaillie was under,” Jones said. “I credit Kaillie for being the vet she is, holding it together, staying composed, and executing. She just really killed it.”
Coach Shimer was emotional at the finish, feeling proud of what both American sleds accomplished today.
“We had two great feats this week,” said USA Driving Coach Brian Shimer. “Kaillie won a repeat title, and Elana came back after having her son and was nipping at the medals. This is one of the greatest feats I’ve ever seen.”
Meyers Taylor and Hoffman finished with a four-run combined time of 3:50.14. Meyers Taylor and Hoffman, who made her World Championship debut this week, powered the BMW-branded sled off the start in 5.64 and 5.64 seconds. Meyers Taylor threaded together downtimes of 58.11 and 58.26 seconds to move the team into fifth.
“I feel pretty good,” Meyers Taylor said. “One of the biggest things I came here to do was qualify for next year. I got all of my races in, and finished out on my toughest track. I would have liked to medal, but I’m proud of what me and Sylvia were able to do. I’m really proud of Kaillie and Lolo, it’s great to see the American flag raised.”
Germans and Americans occupied the top five spots. Kalicki and Strack secured the silver medal behind Humphries and Jones with a total time of 3:48.61. Laura Nolte and Deborah Levi claimed the bronze medal with an aggregate time of 3:49.27. Stephanie Schneider and Leonie Fiebig moved ahead of Meyers Taylor and Hoffman to finish fourth.
“Anytime you’re on a German track, you know you’re going to be toe-to-toe with the Germans,” Meyers Taylor said. “I was prepared for that.”