Canada's bobsleigh and skeleton athletes will have a big advantage over the competition when the World Cup swings through the Whistler Sliding Centre this weekend, the third stop on a North American tour that included events at Lake Placid, New York and Park City, Utah.
For one thing, they have momentum on their side. Kaillee Humphries is now two-for-two in the women's bobsleigh, winning the first two events. Sarah Reid earned a podium in the first race, and Canadian skeleton athletes are circling the podium for both men and women. As well, the men's bobsleigh teams are doing well and adjusting quickly to new teams and new sleds.
For another, they know the course. The Whistler Sliding Centre is no longer new after opening for training and racing in 2008, but the Canadians still get more time on the track than other teams and know it better than anybody. During last year's World Cup in Whistler, athletes and teams came away with five medals.
The ISBF races take place on Friday, Nov. 23 and Saturday, Nov. 24.
Women's skeleton kicks off the event, starting at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22. The two-man bobsleigh takes place at 3 p.m. and women's bobsleigh at 6:30 p.m.
The men's four-man bobsleigh runs at 9 a.m. on Nov. 24, followed by men's skeleton at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for each day and are available online at www.whistler.com or at the ticket kiosk outside the Whistler Conference Centre. As well, there is a will-call booth beside the Excalibur Gondola, which spectators are encouraged to upload to get to the races with no parking available on Blackcomb, which is opening for the season on Nov. 22. Spectators can also buy tickets at the gate for cash only.
Humphries extends streak to two
Olympic champion Kaillee Humphries led the way for Canada once again at the World Cup in Lake Placid this past weekend, winning her second gold of this season — and the sixth race of her career. For the second week she was paired up with rookie brakewoman Chelsea Valois.
"This is just Chelsea's second World Cup race and she has tons of potential," said Humphries. "It shows I have had some great athletes pushing me along the way. I just keep trying to learn and find the fastest way down the track."
The Germany 1 and Germany 2 sleds were second and third while the Canada 2 sled, piloted by Jenny Ciochetti and braked by Emily Baadsvik was 12th.
The men's two-man teams didn't do as well as they hoped with Chris Spring in Canada 2 in eighth, Justin Kripps in Canada 3 in 14th and Lyndon Rush in Canada 1 in 20th.
Skeleton rookie Cassie Hawrysh is making the most of the opportunity she's been given to race World Cup after teammate Amy Gough was sidelined with a concussion. She managed an 11th place result in her World Cup debut at Lake Placid, then followed up at Park City with a fourth-place result to lead the team. She was just six one-hundredths of a second back of the podium.
"Finishing four for me, in just my second race, is so great, so not getting on the podium doesn't matter at this point," she said. "I was in the mix in training this week, but training is training and you just never know on race day. I was really pleased with how it went."
Hawrysh didn't exactly come out of nowhere, winning 10 medals in 11 races on the America's Cup and Europa Cup circuits last season.
Katie Uhlaender of the U.S. was first overall in 1:40.93, followed very closely by Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain in 1:40.94 and Anja Huber of Germany in 1:41.21. Mellisa Hollingsworth was seventh for Canada, while Sarah Reid — on the podium for the first time at Lake Placid in second place — finished 11th on the day.
In men's skeleton, Eric Neilson came close to posting a career best with a sixth place result. John Fairbairn was 10th and Olympic champion Jon Montgomery, returning to competition after a year off, was 14th.
Martin Dukurs of Latvia won his second straight race in 1:39.71, followed by Alexander Kroeckel of Germany in 1:39.76 and Alexander Tretjyakov
The men's four-man bobsleigh teams also raced that day. No Canadians made the top five, but Chris Spring in the Canada 2 sled placed eighth, Lyndon Rush in the Canada 1 sled was 12th and Justin Kripps in Canada 3 was 19th.