Canada’s bobsled teams get mixed results in Sochi
Kaillie Humphries, Heather Moyse defend Olympic title
The Canadian bobsleigh teams experienced the highest and lowest points of the competitions at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
First, the good.
Few Canadian athletes faced higher expectations than Calgary pilot Kaillie Humphries and brakeman Heather Moyse, of Sumerside, P.E.I.
Canada’s top female bobsledders won the 2010 Olympic title in Vancouver, but after the 2011 world championship, Moyse left the team and missed the next two years — competing in rugby, cycling and recovering from various injuries including hip surgery.
The loss of Moyse, one of the best brakemen in the sport, didn’t deter Humphries.
The 28-year-old veteran dominated the last two seasons heading into the Olympic year. Humphries won back-to-back world titles and an unprecedented eight-straight international races with three different brakemen.
With Moyse returning to top form at the beginning of the season, the Canadian duo won three World Cup events. When it was time to perform on the Sochi stage, Humphries put on a masterful driving display that no other pilot could match.
Still, America’s Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams had a 0.23-second lead on Humphries and Moyse after the first two runs.
The Canadians didn’t panic.
In fact, the deficit only fuelled Canada’s duo as they shaved 0.12 seconds in the third run.
The plan for Humphries and Moyse in the final heat was simple: nail down a fast time and pressure Meyers into mistakes that would evaporate the remaining 0.11-second disadvantage.
Humphries was brilliant in the final heat, while Meyers turned into an error machine. The Canadians became the first female bobsledders to defend their Olympic title.
For their outstanding efforts, Humphries and Moyse were chosen Canadian flag-bearers for the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics.
Zubkov sweeps, Canadian men falter
The story on the men’s side was one of dominance from Russian great Alexander Zubkov and failure by the Canadian teams.
With heavy pressure from his home country to win both the two and four-man events, Zubkov — having Canadian great Pierre Lueders serving as Russia’s coach — did just that.
He became only the sixth athlete to sweep the bobsleigh podiums and cemented his legacy as one of the sport’s greatest pilots.
The hopes for the Canadian men weren’t as high as the women, but Bobsleigh Canada expected to see podium results in both events.
But the World Cup season projected mostly what we would witness in Sochi. The team only earned three World Cup medals, and when the two-man Olympic event concluded none of the three teams — Justin Kripps and Bryan Barnett (sixth), Chris Spring and Jesse Lumsden (7th), Lyndon Rush and Lascelles Brown (ninth) — came close to winning a medal.
Kripps crashes in 4-man event
On the eve of the four-man event, Canadian coaches made a surprising change that had Kripps and Spring switch brakemen.
It meant Kripps's new teammates consisted of Lumsden, Cody Sorensen and Ben Coakwell. Spring would compete with Barnett, James McNaughton, Tim Randall.
Coaches felt Kripps had a better second half to the World Cup season and deserved the best pushers.
From that perspective the moves paid off as the first two runs of the event produced identical results that were only 0.01 seconds off the start record.
But disaster struck in the second heat. Kripps flipped the sled coming into coming a corner, effectively ending any hope of a Canadian medal. The crew walked away with minor injuries, but Sorensen and Coakwell were replaced with Graeme Rinholm and Luke Demetre for the last two runs.
Kripps, cleared to race in the third run, and his crew couldn’t overcome the 30th-place position. They failed to qualify for the final heat.
Rush, Brown, Dave Bissett, and Neville Wright, were to only Canadians to manage a top-10 finish.
Spring’s crew ended up 13th.
Spring was not pleased with the decision to leave him with Kripps’s original brakemen by Canadian coaches.
"I might have been Canada 1 up on the board but I was Canada 3 to the coaches," Spring told CBC.