Kaillie Humphries

Kaillie Humphries (née Simundson), bobsledder (born 4 September 1985 in Calgary, AB). At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Humphries won a gold medal for Canada in the two-woman bobsled competition with Heather Moyse of Summerside, PEI, becoming the first Canadian woman to pilot a Canadian bobsled team to victory at an Olympic Winter Games. At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Humphries and Moyse won gold again, becoming the first women’s bobsled team in history to successfully defend an Olympic title. She won bronze at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, this time with Phylicia George as brakeman. Humphries is also the first Canadian female bobsled driver to win the World Championship. She has won two world championships and four World Cup titles in women’s bobsleigh competition. In November 2014, she became one of the first two women to compete in international four-man bobsleigh competition.

Kallie Humphries
Image: \u00a9 Charlie Booker

Early Years

Like many bobsledders before her, Humphries did not start as a bobsled driver. In fact, until the age of 16, she was an alpine ski racer with dreams of Olympic gold in that sport, but after realizing that she would probably not make the national team, Humphries turned to the bobsleigh. She spent her first four years as a brakeman and was named as an alternate to the Canadian team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino. At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Helen Upperton of Calgary, with Moyse as her brakeman finished a respectable fourth, but the Canada II team of Suzanne Gavine-Hlady of Belle River, Ontario and Jamie Cruickshank of Saskatoon struggled and finished thirteenth.

Humphries was so disappointed not to compete in Torino, she contemplated joining the British team, as she would be eligible to apply for citizenship once she married Dan Humphries in April of 2007. (Dan Humphries was on the British team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino as a brakeman). Fortunately for Bobsleigh Canada and Canadian sports fans, Kaillie Humphries decided to remain part of the Canadian program.

Europa Cup Career

The chance for Humphries to progress as an elite bobsled driver came in 2006–07. She won three events as a pilot, topped the overall 2006-07 Europa Cup standings, and (with Cruickshank) won a silver medal at the 2007 World Junior Bobsleigh Championships in Altenberg, Germany. Expectations were on the rise after Humphries’ success in the Europa Cup (the highest level of bobsled’s developmental racing circuit).

World Cup Success

The following season (2007-08), Humphries finished on the podium in her rookie season on the World Cup circuit. Humphries and Shelley-Ann Brown of Pickering, Ontario captured the bronze medal at a competition in Lake Placid, New York. Two more silver podium finishes followed in the 2008-09 season. Humphries and Brown placed second at a World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, while Moyse joined Humphries to win silver at a World Cup competition in Whistler, BC. The World Cup medal for Humphries and Moyse was significant as it came only one year before Whistler would host bobsleigh competitions at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (the World Cup event was used as a test run for the host Olympic organizers). The success of Humphries and Moyse at the Whistler World Cup made them serious medal contenders at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Kaillie Humphries, right, and Chelsea Valois during the World Cup race in Innsbruck, Au.tria,
Friday, January 18th, 2013. Image: \u00a9 Charlie Booker.

2010 Olympic Winter Games

Humphries won her first World Cup race only two months before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With Moyse as her brakeman, Humphries piloted the Canadian sled to victory at a World Cup race in Altenberg, Germany, the same site as her silver medal performance at the 2007 World Junior Bobsleigh Championship. Humphries and Moyse also won two more medals before the Olympics — a silver medal in Königssee, Germany and a bronze medal in Igls, Austria.

Humphries’s major competition in the 2010 Olympic two-woman bobsled event included reigning German world champion Cathleen Martini, reigning Olympic silver medallist Shauna Rohbock of the United States, and fellow Canadian, Upperton, who was now driving with Brown. However, neither Martini nor Rohbock would be able to match the speed of the Canadians.

On 20 February 2010, the first day of competition for women’s bobsled at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Humphries and Moyse got off to a perfect start. In the first of four heats, they posted a time of 53.19 seconds, which beat the Whistler Sliding Centre track record of 53.53 seconds previously set by Rohbock in 2009.

One of Humphries’s and Moyse’s strengths was their start time. In their first heat, Humphries and Moyse set a course record with their 5.12 second start time (the time taken to get into the bobsled).

Humphries and Moyse then continued to set track records in heat two and heat three. They set a start time track record of 5.11 seconds in each heat and then posted track record times of 53.01 seconds and 52.85 seconds respectively.

Heading into the fourth heat, Humphries and Moyse had a 0.57 second lead over Americans Erin Pac and Elana Meyers; in bobsled competition, this was a significant time advantage — one which the Americans could not hope to overcome. Instead, the real competition was for second place, between the American team and the second Canadian team. In an exciting finish, Upperton and Brown passed the American team and won the silver medal. Women’s bobsled was the only event at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in which Canada finished first and second.

World Champion

Since the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Humphries has had great success at the World Bobsleigh Championships. At the 2011 World Bobsleigh Championships in Königssee, Germany, Humphries and Moyse won the bronze medal. The following season (2011–2012), Humphries had new brakemen because Moyse, who had suffered an ankle injury while competing for Canada at the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, took a break from bobsled in October 2011. Despite losing Moyse, Humphries finished third in the World Cup standings, working with either Emily Baadsvik of St. Stephen, NB or Jennifer Ciochetti of Edmonton, AB). On 18 February 2012 in Lake Placid, New York, Humphries won her first World Championship with Ciochetti in the bobsled, becoming the first Canadian female bobsled driver to win that title.

The following season (2012-13), was the best of Humphries’s career to that point. She won six of nine World Cup races as well as the 2013 World Bobsleigh Championships at St. Moritz, Switzerland, with her new brakeman, Chelsea Valois of Carrot River, SK.

2014 Olympic Winter Games

Heading into the 2014 Olympic season, it was announced that Moyse would reunite with Humphries. Moyse was back in top form, having won the very first World Push Challenge in Calgary on 23 November 2013.

A week later, on 30 November 2013, Humphries and Moyse won the first World Cup event of the season at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park. Their start time of 5.45 seconds in their second run was a track record. Humphries and Moyse went on to win World Cup events in Lake Placid, NY, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, on their way to winning the World Cup title.

At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Humphries and Moyse found themselves a significant 0.23 seconds behind American rivals Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams after run two. However, they were the fastest team down the track in the third run, and cut 0.12 seconds off the Americans’ time. In the fourth run, Humphries and Moyse were 0.21 seconds faster than Meyers and Williams, and won their second consecutive Olympic Gold medal by a tenth of a second.

Humphries and Moyse, Gold Medal Run, Sochi 2014
Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse celebrate their gold medal run in the two-man bobsleigh at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyna, Russia (19 February 2014).
Humphries and Moyse Defend Gold Medal, Sochi 2014
Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse celebrate during a flower ceremony after successfully defending their Vancouver gold with a win in the two-man bobsleigh at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyna, Russia (19 February 2014).
Closing Ceremonies, Sochi 2014
Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, closing ceremony flag bearers. 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Near the end of the 2014 Games, Humphries and Moyse were chosen by the Canadian Olympic Committee to be Canada’s flag-bearers in the closing ceremonies. According to the Calgary Herald, Humphries was delighted to carry the flag:

“This has been such a great Games for Canada and leading the team into the Closing Ceremony is the cherry on top of a fantastic couple of weeks. I am so honoured.”

Breaking Barriers

Humphries has continued to break records since winning her second Olympic championship at Sochi 2014. Notably, in November 2014 she became one of the first two women — with American Elana Meyers Taylor — to compete in international four-man bobsleigh competition.

In September 2014, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation announced that, for the first time, mixed-gender crews could compete in four-man bobsleigh (there is no separate four-woman bobsleigh event). On 1 November, Humphries piloted a team comprising Daniel Dale, Joey Nemet and D.J. McLelland to a bronze-medal finish at the Canadian championships, which qualified them for international competition. Two weeks later, she piloted the crew to a sixth-place finish at a North American Cup race in Park City, Utah. American pilot Elana Meyers Taylor and her (male) team finished seventh.

On 23 November, Humphries and Meyers Taylor finished second and third, respectively, at a North American Cup race in Calgary, becoming the first women to reach the podium in an international four-man competition. They also became the first women to race in a World Cup four-man event, finishing 15th and 16th at a race in Calgary on 20 December. The same month, Humphries received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of the year.

Humphries’s team finished 18th out of 34 in the four-man World Cup standings, while the team piloted by Meyers Taylor placed 25th. Humphries continued to compete in two-woman bobsleigh, finishing second overall in 2014–15, this time with Melissa Lotholz (Meyers Taylor won the women’s title).

On 9 January 2016, Humphries piloted an all-female team (with Lotholz, Cynthia Appiah and Genevieve Thibault) in a World Cup race in Lake Placid, New York, becoming the first women’s crew to compete in four-man bobsleigh. Since the crew weighed about 300 lbs less than most of the other (male) teams, it was not a surprise that they finished last. However, Humphries hoped that the race would help generate support for a separate four-woman division in international bobsled competition.

At the end of the 2015–16 season, Humphries won her third overall World Cup title — her first with Lotholz as brakeman. The pair also won silver in the world championships that season. In 2016–17, Humphries and Lotholz won silver in both the world championships and the World Cup overall standings.

2018 Olympic Winter Games

Humphries had a strong season in 2017–18, winning her fourth World Cup title in women’s bobsleigh. She shared the honour with brakemen Melissa Lotholz and Phylicia George, a two-time Summer Olympian in hurdles who made her bobsleigh debut that season. There was considerable speculation about who would serve as Humphries’ brakeman at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, with Lotholz and George considered the top contenders in the lead-up to the Games.

At the 2018 Games, Humphries and George finished third with a time of 3:22.89, after Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz (3:22.45) and the United States’ Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs (3:22.52). Despite losing her Olympic title to Jamanka, Humphries was pleased with the result, particularly as she and George were in fifth place after two of four runs and had to fight their way up. The bronze medal made her the most decorated Canadian bobsledder in Olympic history, breaking a tie with Pierre Lueders.

Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George, PyeongChang 2018
Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George of Canada receive their bronze medal won in the Women's 2-man Bobsleigh at the Olympic Sliding Centre during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea on 21 February 2018.

Career Highlights in Two-Woman Bobsleigh

Olympic Winter Games Gold (Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014)
Bronze (PyeongChang 2018)
World Cup Overall Standings Gold (2013, 2014, 2016)
Silver (2015, 2017)
Bronze (2010, 2011)
World Championship Gold (2012, 2013)
Silver (2016, 2017)
Bronze (2011)

Activism

Humphries is affiliated with several meaningful causes, including the “I’ve Been Bullied” campaign, which informs people of the long-term effects of bullying. Through the campaign, Humphries speaks about her personal experience as a victim of bullying, and discusses the importance of eliminating bullying in sports.

Humphries has also made a difference through “Right to Play”, an organization that uses sport and play to “educate and empower” children facing poverty, disease, and conflict. As an Athlete Ambassador, Humphries traveled to Liberia in April 2011 with another Canadian Olympic gold medallist, gymnast Kyle Shewfelt. Humphries and Shewfelt brought sports equipment and set up sports programs for the underprivileged children and youth in the area.

Humphries is also active with the Special Olympics and speaks regularly at Calgary elementary schools about the importance of physical activity, setting goals, and saying “no” to drugs.