Kaillie Humphries isn't done punctuating her legacy

3-time Olympic medallist wants bobsleigh gender parity, and a 4th Winter Games

Kaillie Humphries isn't done punctuating her legacy
Kaillie Humphries, right, and Phylicia George after winning bronze in women's bobsleigh on Wednesday. © Kevin Light/CBC Sports

By Vicki Hall, CBC Sports

The temptation exists to label Kaillie Humphries as a real-life Superwoman.

After all, the heavily-tattooed Canadian bobsleigh pilot is known to push cars when training in remote areas — the bigger the vehicle, the better. Her Instagram feed bears witness to an elite athlete with incredible brute strength and power.

But on Wednesday, the world saw a different side of Humphries as she swung her head back into Phylicia George's arms at the bottom of the Olympic bobsleigh track.

Relief. Sweet, sweet relief.

"You don't really ever know if you have a medal or not until you can see the clock when you cross the finish line," Humphries told reporters at the Alpensia Sliding Centre. "It's extremely unnerving."

Regardless of outside appearances, the human tow truck is, in fact, human.

'Try to focus'

"I really just try and focus on each and every step of the process, to push that sled as hard as I could, each and every corner to drive it the best way I knew how," she said. "And just have a little faith and hope for the best."

Her best, over four runs and two days in Pyeongchang, was bronze. So after eight years as the reigning Olympic champion, Humphries watched Germany's Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz wrestle the title away in convincing fashion.

The Germans put down a blazing combined time of three minutes, 22.45 seconds while Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs of the United States seized silver in 3:22.52.

Humphries and George claimed bronze in 3:22.89.

"This is probably my most emotional medal — [with] how hard we've worked, how much went into this medal and how much it means — and how great a person Phylicia is," said Humphries, who becomes the most decorated Canadian bobsleigh Olympian in history, surpassing the venerable Pierre Lueders.

"I feel awesome to be able to share this with her."

Differences with Moyse

It's hardly a state secret that Humphries and her former Olympic brakeman Heather Moyse had their differences over the years. They won two Olympic gold medals together and carried the flag in 2014 at the Sochi closing ceremony. But you got the feeling that going for a post-race beer together was not on their itinerary.

In Pyeongchang, Moyse came out of retirement to push rising star Alysia Rissling to a sixth-place finish. Fellow Canadians Christine de Bruin and Melissa Lotholz came in seventh.

But from a Canadian perspective, the day belonged to Humphries and George, a two-time Summer Olympian in hurdles who just started competing in bobsleigh this season.

In George, Humphries feels she has finally found her sliding soulmate, and hopes she will stick with the sport.

"I'm trying real hard to convince her," Humphries said. "She says she is going back to track. I tell her she can go back for two years.

"She is the perfect fit for me athletically and she can handle the pressure and the stress. She was ready to attack this."

From the outside, it appears equipment troubles prevented Humphries from securing a third gold medal in Pyeongchang. For whatever reason, the Canada-1 sled bled time on the bottom section of the track.

That loss of speed came in spite of four consistent pushes from George.


Rest assured, Humphries will conduct a thorough post-mortem on the race as she prepares for what she hopes is her fourth Olympic appearance at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Those rumours of retirement? Forget 'em.

"It's not over," Humphries pronounced. "Phylicia's got a Summer Olympics to go to now. Hopefully I can convince her to come back after that point too.

"But I'll be here. I'll be rocking. I definitely want to make another go."

In 2022, Humphries will be 36 and arguably past her athletic prime. But experience is invaluable when it comes to driving a sled at 140 km/hr, and the Calgarian is widely considered one of the best pilots on the planet — male or female.

Stop in at the icehouse at Winsport's Canada Olympic Park on a regular training day, and you'll witness the same level of intensity from Humphries as you'll see on the Olympic track.

Bobsleigh her passion

Bobsleigh is her job. Her profession. Her passion. And she treats it as such.

"I have Kaillie to thank so much for inviting me to come to the sport," George said. "And I'm so happy that I answered the call. She's been an amazing mentor to me."

In truth, Humphries sees herself as more of a pioneer than a mentor. In 2014-15, she became the first woman — alongside her American training partner, Meyers Taylor — to pilot a four-man sled in World Cup competition.

But Humphries wants to punctuate her legacy by convincing the International Olympic Committee to include four-woman bobsleigh on the Winter Games program. Gender parity, she says, is paramount.

Chances are, she'll be retired by the time that happens. But her goal is to make sure young girls feel they have every chance to become their own version of Superwoman.

Even if, on most days, they feel awfully human.