Canadians Humphries, Moyse defend Olympic bobsled gold
Canada 1 pilot Kaillie Humphries (front) hugs teammate Heather Moyse after completing a run in the women's bobsleigh event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 19, 2014. (ARND WIEGMANN/Reuters)
You could see in both their eyes the affection the two long-time teammates have for each other and the sense of satisfaction they felt about defending their Olympic gold medal in the women’s bobsled.
It was probably the only quiet moment of the night for the Canada 1 pair.
Just minutes earlier, after realizing they had won the gold on Wednesday, Humphries and Moyse went crazy, jumping up and down and screaming before climbing over a fence into the stands to hug and kiss family and friends.
“We became screamers somewhere along the way there,” Humphries said with a laugh.
“And we’re not screamers,” added Moyse. “When we went from 10th to first (at a World Cup race in St. Moritz), we were screamers. And then today ...”
“We were screamers,” said Humphries, completing her partner’s sentence.
“It’s because we leave everything on the table,” continued Moyse, a native of Summerside, P.E.I. “We were going to leave here happy knowing that we can’t control what anybody else does. So as long as we are happy and okay and satisfied with everything that we laid out on the table — the push, the drive, how we prepared, everything that we arranged — and our program and plan, then we would leave here happy. And we did that.
“Just that anxious moment because we can’t control what the Americans were going to do, so it was just a matter of waiting and waiting and waiting. And I think that’s what builds it up and that’s suddenly why we became screamers.”
You couldn’t blame them for screaming. It was a night of high drama. The USA 1 team of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams held a .23-second lead over Canada 1 after the opening two runs on Tuesday. But after the first of two runs on Wednesday, Humphries and Moyse pretty well split the lead in half, getting to within .11 seconds of the Americans with one run to go.
Humphries did not know how much of a margin separated them from the Americans heading into the final run. She doesn’t usually want to know, but Moyse did.
“I just looked at her and said, ‘It’s possible,’ ” said Moyse. “And that’s all Kaillie needed to know. The gap wasn’t close, but it was possible. I know Kaillie doesn’t like knowing the times and she’s like, ‘I kind of want to know.’ And I said, ‘No you don’t. You don’t need to know. You just need to know that it’s possible.’ ”
In the final run, Canada 1 went second-last, just before USA 1, and crossed the line in 57.92 after a solid start and drive by Humphries.
It was now up to USA 1 to either hold on to the gold medal or give it away.
They gave it away.
Numerous times, the USA 1 sled kissed the wall, almost sliding sideways at one point. They finally crossed the line at 58.13, giving Humphries and Moyse the gold medal by one-tenth of a second. USA 2 finished third. Canada 2 — Jennifer Ciochetti and Chelsea Valois — was 13th.
“It just was consistency,” said Humphries, a Calgary native, said when asked what was the key to the comeback. “For Heather and I, we had four extremely good pushes and I drove four very consistent runs and that’s the key to an Olympic or world championship title.”
Meyers set a start and a track record Tuesday to steal the lead from Humphries and, again, held on for the lead of .11 seconds with one run to go. That makes for a tough dynamic. No matter how well you drive, victory is sort of out of your hands. You have to wait for the leading team to make a mistake.
“It’s never easy to rely on somebody else,” said Humphries. “We’re people who like to control and we have our plan, we have our process and we do each step the very best we can. And when you have to rely on somebody else and wait and see, it makes it hard, because it’s out of your control. It wasn’t easy, but it also makes it that much more fun when your work and effort all pays off.”
Humphries was asked if she was coming back for the 2018 Games.
“We’ll see,” she said.
“We’re going to go have a party first,” added Moyse with a laugh.
“As of right now, I would say yes, I plan on continuing,” said Humphries. “I’ve got new goals, new dreams that I’m really hoping pan out. And if those all work, yeah, you’ll see me around the next four years.”
Shivering in the media zone in the cold mountain air, after more than an hour of talking to reporters, the Canada 1 sledders were asked what they were feeling emotionally after the come-from-behind victory.
“It’s really hard to describe, actually,” said Humphries. “It’s unbelievable. How do you describe achieving a dream?
“Sacrifices had been made, not only by myself, but friends, families, support, everything and then to have Heather come on board, it’s been something that we’ve done together. Yeah, it’s indescribable.”
CHECK OUT CANADA'S MEDAL WINNERS
About 15 months ago, Canada 1 brakeman Heather Moyse underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in her right hip.
That, and the fact that her gold-medal partner from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — pilot Kaillie Humphries — had enjoyed huge success since Vancouver with a number of other brakemen, meant that Moyse had no guarantees she would be teamed up again with Humphries for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Humphries and brakeman Jenny Ciochetti became the first Canadian female bobsledders to win a world championship in 2012. And then with rookie brakeman Chelsea Valois last season, Calgary native Humphries won her second straight world championship title.
“At the start of the season, I didn’t know who I was going to be pushing for, until I could prove myself,” said Moyse, minutes after she and Humphries struck gold at the Sochi Games on Wednesday. “And I remember questions from some of you people (media) asking about who I was going to push. And I said I just have to look at it positively. If I push Jenny, then I will helping someone to their first Olympics Games. But if I push Kaillie, it will be really, truly the only way that we can say that we are truly defending our Olympic gold medal as a team. And not a lot of people get the chance to say they can do that. And that’s pretty cool.”
Moyse, 35, has quietly established herself as one of the most decorated and most accomplished Canadian athletes of all time. Wednesday’s gold-medal performance marked her third trip to the Olympics (she finished fourth at the 2006 Turin Games with Helen Upperton). But the Summerside, PEI native has also represented Canada in rugby and cycling.
At the 2010 Women’s World Cup of Rugby, she tied for most tries scored in the tournament, but broke her ankle in the final game. As part of her rehab, Moyse began cycling and earned a place on Canada’s team for the Pan American Track Cycling Championships in 2012. And then after proving this season that she was healthy and ready to go, Moyse was matched again with Humphries. The two were asked if winning a gold medal a second time was different than the first time in Vancouver.
“It’s way different than four years ago,” said Humphries.
“We’re in Russia. Did you not know?” added Moyse.
After they both had a good-natured chuckle.
“Winning in Vancouver, being at home, first Olympic gold for us, that was a dream come true,” Humphries said. “But to be able to do it again, and to be able to defend that, I mean, it’s less about a fluke and more about our plan and process and who we are as people.”
The duo experienced another exciting moment before the night was over as Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a phone call to Humphries and Moyse to congratulate them.
TAKE A LOOK AT CANADA'S OLYMPIC MEDAL WINNERS