LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Kaillie Humphries drove her sled across the finish line, then raised her right hand and waved to the crowd of well-wishers as she slowed to a stop.
Last place was hers, and that couldn’t have been less relevant.
The two-time Olympic women’s champion from Canada made history Saturday when she and sledmates Cynthia Appiah, Genevieve Thibault and Melissa Lotholz became the first all-female team to compete in a four-person World Cup bobsled race at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Humphries had driven against men in the past, but only with men also pushing her sled.
“To be the first one is cool but at the end of the day I’m not doing it to be the first one,” Humphries said. “I’m doing it because it challenges myself to be a better pilot, to have something else to look forward to, something fun.”
Humphries came into Saturday knowing she had no chance of winning, and there was no miracle finish. Humphries finished 17th out of 17 sleds in the first run, crossing the line in 57 seconds — a massive 2.51 seconds behind the leading sled piloted by Germany’s Maximilian Arndt. The first 16 sleds were separated by 1.16 seconds, and the gap between 16th and Humphries’ spot in 17th was another 1.35 seconds.
The second run was scheduled for later Saturday morning.
The reason Humphries knew winning or contending wasn’t an option Saturday has nothing to do with her skills. It’s simple physics: The combined weight of her sled and crew was about 300 pounds less than most of the other sleds, meaning there was no way they could generate the speed and momentum the others could.
But Humphries has been among a small group of women clamouring for a four-female division in sliding. Men have two- and four-man races, while women’s bobsledders only compete in two-person sleds.
In time, Humphries hopes that can change.
“Step by step,” Humphries said. “We’re going to do what we can to show the world, show ourselves and show every girl out there that they can do whatever they set their hearts to.”
© 2016 The Associated Press