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One-two punch for bobsleigh teams

Canadian women win gold and silver medals

While home track advantage no doubt helped the Canada 1 and 2 women's bobsleigh teams make it to the bottom of the Whistler Sliding Centre safely, having the fastest start times at the top of the course helped produce gold and silver medals Wednesday.

It was the end of a very good day for Canada. Four-time Olympian and Team Canada flag bearer Clara Hughes won a bronze medal in the women's 5,000 metre speed skating event, the women's short track speed skating team earned a silver medal in the 3,000 metre relay, and the Canadian men's hockey team dominated a Russian squad in a do-or-die quarter-final showdown.

But in Whistler the talk of the town was a rare double podium by Canadian athletes, with the team of pilot Kaillie Humphries and brakewoman Heather Moyse taking the gold medal while setting new track records on three of four runs. Their four-run combined time was 3:32.28.

The bigger story was the come-from-behind run by the Canada 2 sled team of Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown. They posted the fastest split on the top section of the course in their fourth run to jump up two spots to the silver medal position in 3:33.13.

Erin Pac and Elana Meyer of the U.S. picked up the bronze.

It was a wild race with no fewer than four crashes in Wednesday's third and fourth runs. There were no injuries, but pieces of fibreglass were exploding off of overturned sleds, and the Germany 2 brakewoman was knocked out the back out their sled and rode down the track on her back.

While Humphries and Moyse led in every heat, one mistake was all it would have taken for the team to finish off the podium. Still, they didn't hold back, and in their last two runs expanded their lead to almost a full second.

"We had separate plans for four separate runs and we had different goals in all four runs and it was just relief that all the work we put into it has actually come to fruition and we were able to accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish," said Moyse. "Then I stepped out of the sled and heard (the crowd) and that was just... inexplicable, you can't describe that and it was just pure pride to be there."

For Humphries it was about giving every corner and straightaway her full attention and taking nothing for granted despite having a sizable lead on the competition.

"I really tried to focus on my lines instead of just focusing on making it down, because that's when things can happen - especially on this track," she said. "It's very fast and any moment you have a lapse in judgment it can bite you in the backside. I had to be consistently better and better, make each run better.

"In the last run I was just thinking, 'this is my last time down this track this year, let's make it the best we possibly can - really smooth, really clean, that's what we tried to do and we accomplished that."

Next up for Humphries and Moyse is a trip to Vegas - their reward for all their hard work the past few years, then back to rugby in the summer.

Upperton used a press conference the following day to make a case for Own The Podium, citing the double medal performance by Canadians as proof that the funding is working.

"There's been a lot of debate and I know people think that there were some missed performances, but I think in general this is a really good starting point for funding in amateur sport," she said. "And I think, unless you keep the momentum going you'll see the programs fall away and falter.

"I hope that Canada sees what they've done for the athletes in the country, and what the athletes have done for the country and all the kids that are watching. I mean, I'm part of the '88 legacy from Calgary and 20 years from now there will be little kids racing because of what we've done - that's the point of all this, right?"

Upperton also reflected on how far women have come in the sport since bobsleigh debuted at the 2002 Olympics.

"We're really in a male-dominated sport. I remember when Kaillee and I first started we were not allowed to race on all the tracks - our second season is when they opened up Altenberg and Cortina and all these tracks, and we said 'this has got to be a joke, it's 2005. Are you serious? Maybe the next step is for us to be up in the start house with the guys (at the top of the course) or maybe four-woman bobsleigh - that would be sweet."

"We're making leaps and bounds for women's sport," added Humphries.

"This is the ideal situation for our program. We only had two Canadian (women's) sleds in the Games and for both of us being on the top two spots of the podium, it doesn't get much better than that."