Kaillie Humphries aiming for 3rd consecutive Olympic gold

'Fierce competitor' seeking bobsleigh success in Pyeongchang, beyond

Kaillie Humphries aiming for 3rd consecutive Olympic gold
Two-time defending Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries, left, will be looking to top the podium for a third consecutive Games later this month in Pyeongchang, South Korea. On Jan. 6, she won a World Cup competition in Germany with Phylicia George, right. © Sebastian Kahnert/Associated Press

​By Joshua Clipperton, Canadian Press

Chris Le Bihan and the rest of Canada's bobsled staff have discussed how the program might go about developing more athletes like Kaillie Humphries.

The consensus comes back the same every time — don't even bother trying.

"She's truly an outlier," said Le Bihan, Canada's high-performance director for both bobsled and skeleton. "You can't pencil in or create a pathway that will equal another Kaillie Humphries.

"There are some unique people in this world, and she's definitely one."

The two-time defending Olympic gold medallist in women's bobsled, Humphries will be looking to top the podium for a third consecutive games later this month in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 32-year-old has piloted her sled to 48 career World Cup medals, including three victories and two second-place finishes this season to claim a fourth overall title.

"She's a fierce competitor," added Le Bihan. "It's the dedication, it's the relentless pursuit, it's the perfectionism of the equipment, of the set up, of everything. I've never seen her say, 'OK, this is good enough.'

"She pushes and pushes and pushes, and continues to push, which is why she's as good as she is."

Humphries and brakeman Heather Moyse won Canada's first-ever Olympic gold in women's bobsled at the Vancouver Games in 2010 before the pair repeated four years later in Sochi, Russia.

'It's so easy to fall back on what's comfortable'

The seemingly insatiable thirst for success that drives Humphries, who has also grabbed five career medals at the world championships, comes from a fear of complacency that's coupled with knowing the competition is always right at her heels.

"It's so easy to fall back on what's comfortable," said the Calgary native. "It takes new skills to be able to maintain. Consistency is very hard in every aspect of life — to know exactly why you've done something and be able to repeat it at the highest level and be the best in the world all the time. It takes a toll.

"Not only sacrifice and dedication, but you have to be willing to push boundaries to do things that were once very successful [and] be able to take that and maybe throw it all away or take a step back to go forward again."

Moyse retired after the 2014 season — the Summerside, P.E.I., product is making a comeback, but will likely push for one of Canada's other two women's sleds in Pyeongchang — meaning that Humphries had to find a new brakeman leading into the 2018 Games.

'The goal is to walk away victorious'

She has split time with Melissa Lotholz and former hurdler Phylicia George this season, with the latter looking like the best bet to be paired with Humphries in South Korea when the women's bobsled competition begins Feb. 20.

'We're very lucky to have Kaillie as a Canadian, and pursuing this as hard as she's pursuing it.' — Canada's bobsled/skeleton high-performance director Chris Le Bihan on Kaillie Humphries

"Success is defending the Olympic gold for a third time," said Humphries, the world champion in 2012 and 2013. "The goal is to walk away victorious."

Le Bihan, who won bronze in four-man in Vancouver eight years ago, said her ability to block out the noise and deliver in big moments has been the most impressive aspect of her career to date.

"Winning an Olympic gold medal is not an easy task," he said. "If it was, then everyone would be doing it, and to stay on top like that for so long is an amazing feat.

"These types of high-performance athletes don't come around all the time. We're very lucky to have Kaillie as a Canadian, and pursuing this as hard as she's pursuing it."

Fifth at a World Cup event in Pyeongchang with Lotholz last March, Humphries is also looking beyond these Olympics. She expects to continue racing until at least Beijing 2022, and could be convinced to stick around even longer if Calgary hosts the games in 2026.

"I've got a lot more to give," said Humphries. "I'm not ready to be done. I don't think by any means I've reached the top.

"What I want to achieve out of sport internally as well as the type of legacy I want to leave is forever changing."

Humphries pushing for women's 4-man

Part of that change is her desire to see the creation of a women's four-man event to go along with the two-man. Humphries made history during the 2014-15 season when she became the first female to pilot a four-man sled at both a World Cup and the world championships on the men's side.

But she said a number of obstacles remain, including a shallow talent pool and the overall will of the bobsled community.

"I'm doing everything I can to make it happen," said Humphries. "Ideally I would love to see it in 2022. That's a lofty goal. I'm very aware it's going to take more than just me."

Adding women's four-man would also likely prolong her career.

"Competing in four-man would keep me going to 2026 if Calgary gets [the games]," she said. "That's very realistic."

For now, she will have to settle on going for her Olympic three-peat.

"My goals are lofty and they are big," said Humphries. "I have to continuously look forward and try and make a target for myself to achieve."

With files from Donna Spencer and Gregory Strong