With home-ice advantage, Canadian teams speed to 1-2 finish in women’s bobsled

By Tom Withers, AP
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Canada celebrates 1-2 finish in women’s bobsled

WHISTLER, British Columbia — This was the roar Canada had been holding back, the one building for nearly two weeks.

On a track touched forever by tragedy, it was time to let go.

Gold gasps and silver shrieks, echoing off Blackcomb Mountain — the sound of Canadian sliding joy. When the scoreboard made it official, that Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse were Olympic champions, that Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown were silver medalists, the roars could be heard from the start house to the finish curve.

“Perfect,” Moyse said.

Sure was. And it got better when Terrance Kosicar provided the most poignant moment.

Proudly grabbing a large Canadian flag, Kosicar, the paramedic who had worked frantically to try and save Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s life following a training-run crash hours before the Vancouver Games began, hoisted the maple leaf high and sprinted through the final curve.

Smaller Canadian flags waved. So did British ones. And French. And American.

This was a night that everyone celebrated.

“We’re lucky to be Canadian athletes right now,” Upperton said. “Going 1-2 at home? It’s not possible to be better than that.”

Sliding on home ice, down a track whose speedy reputation has only grown since the games opened, Humphries and Moyse found their way to the bottom fastest — and Upperton and Brown were right behind them. With a 1-2 finish, the teammates pumped up Canada’s pride and brought comfort to a place where little has gone according to plan.

Humphries, who lost her job as Upperton’s brakeman to Moyse four years ago at the Turin Games, won Canada its seventh gold in these games and gave the hosts their first medals in this sport since it debuted in 2002 at Salt Lake.

Blasting down the Whistler Sliding Center track in Canada-1, Humphries and Moyse finished their four runs in 3 minutes, 32.28 seconds — 0.85 seconds ahead of Upperton and Brown and 1.12 seconds better than American Erin Pac and Elana Meyers, who took bronze.

Four years ago, Upperton, with Moyse in her sled, missed winning a bronze by 0.05 seconds.

This erased any pain.

“This is my second Olympics and hardly any people get to compete at home,” Upperton said. “Canada’s put so much into this, Own the Podium, our coaches, our teammates, everybody.”

The goal was gold and Canada spent a fortune trying to catch up to the sliding world. They lured coach Tuffy Latour away from the U.S. program and caught some heat for limiting the amount of time other nations could train on their new $105 million track.

It paid off.

In winning two medals, the Canadians kept the mighty Germans off the podium for the first time in Olympic and world championship history.

“I’m disappointed,” German star Sandra Kiriasis said. “In myself.”

If Humphries and Moyse were nervous, they did a nice job of disguising it. Sharing headphones, they sang and danced to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” as they prepared in the warm-up area before racing on Wednesday.

They’ll soon be straining their vocal cords to “O Canada.” They’ll get their medals Thursday night.

Humphries came into the day with just a 0.13-second lead over Pac. Following the second run Wednesday, a confident — but not cocky — Humphries said she didn’t care who was chasing her.

“Bring ‘em all,” she said.

None of ‘em came.

Humphries and Moyse set a track record on their third run, swelling their advantage to 0.57 seconds over Pac. The only lead growing as fast was the one Canada’s hockey team was opening over Russia in their win-or-disgrace quarterfinal matchup.

It was over. The only races left were for silver and bronze.

Upperton’s last drive was flawless, and she and Brown were guaranteed a medal when Germany’s Cathleen Martini crashed on the 13th curve. Her brakeman, Romy Logsch, was thrown from the sled and couldn’t control her arms and legs, making a giant “X” as she skidded along the ice.

Both were shaken but appeared uninjured.

So then, the race was for silver. And Pac couldn’t match Upperton’s super final run.

“They should have gone 1-2,” Pac said of the Canadians. “They deserved it.”

The American team’s last hope for a win will come in the bobsled’s signature event as Steve Holcomb tries to end a 62-year U.S. drought without a gold in four-man.

American Shauna Rohbock, who labeled this lightning-fast course “stupid fast” after her first training run, finished sixth.

“Oh, well,” said Rohbock, who won silver in 2006. “It’s not the Olympics that I dreamed of for four years. But life does go on.”

A whole new life begins now for Humphries and Moyse.

Rivals four years ago. Olympic champions now.

“It took us a good year to get over it,” Humphries said. “Now we’re the best teammates possible.”

Best women’s bobsled team in the world, too.

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