Three medal night for Canadian sliders 

Humphries and Upperton repeat Olympic gold and bronze in bobsleigh, Hollingsworth first in skeleton

click to enlarge bobsleigh-athletes1.jpg

Spectators attending or tuning into the FIBT World Cup in Whistler witnessed an exorcism of sorts as Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth at last shook off her demons from the 2010 Winter Games and laid down two fast runs to place first overall.

It's been almost two years since she was in first place after three runs in the Olympics, then made a key mistake in the fourth and final run and finished fifth. Hollingsworth felt like she was reliving the moment Thursday night - the same light, the same weather, and the same lead to protect.

"When I was warming up it was pretty eerie. The sun was setting on the same mountain, I had the same feel, the same position," said Hollingsworth, picking up her second gold medal of the season. She also moved from fifth in the FIBT rankings to third.

"I told my coach, and he said 'that's good.' He said a lot of people would be dying to be in my position, and that I should appreciate being number one... But I know I'm my own worst enemy, and in Whistler the one word I kept telling myself was 'respect' - respect the track."

Hollingsworth deliberately tuned out the rest of the race, ignoring splits and results while focusing on her own race - and in a way that's too bad, because it was a dramatic night at Whistler Sliding Centre that showed the athleticism and skill of the sport. Athletes that were fast at the top went too high on corners and bounced into walls at the bottom to drop off the pace, while slow starters found speed in the lower section and climbed the ranks. The 16th fastest racer in the first run posted the third-fastest time in the second run. The seventh fastest in the first run posted the 13th fastest second run. Germany's Marion Thees, ranked first in the world, had a fast start, slow middle and a fast finish.

The only consistent racers were Hollingsworth, who posted the fastest first and second runs to post a combined time of 1:49.79 and Australia's Lucy Katherine Chaffer, who was second in both heats to post a time of 1:49.96. Shelley Rudman of Germany was third in 1:50.36.

"I had an idea (I was having a good run) but there were still mistakes that I made and I wasn't that far ahead after the first run - seven hundredths of a second, so it was a dead heat heading into the second half."

Hollingworth said her goal this season was to place in the top three in standings, which would guarantee her a spot on the team next season without having to go to qualifying events.

The Canadians were solid overall. Sarah Reid posted one of her best results this year in sixth place, jumping up three spots with a fast second run. She moved up to sixth in the World Cup rankings.

"I am happy," she said. "I've been having a not great second half (to the season) so to come out and slide two solid runs is great.

"Whistler is touchy because there are a lot of key sections, and it's so fast that it's easy to get out of control, you have to stay on top of it."

Amy Gough went from ninth in the first run to fourth in the second run, and was happy with her performance as well. She hoped for more, but she's taking the longer view and focusing on consistency. She'd like to get back on the podium and finish the season with good results in Calgary next weekend and at the World Championships in Lake Placid the week after that.

"It's one step closer to Sochi," she said. "(Lake Placid) will be great practice, it's the only race this year with four heats."

The women's bobsleigh followed skeleton, and it was an Olympic repeat for Canada with pilot Kaillie Humphries winning gold with brakewoman Emily Baadsvik, and Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown taking the bronze medal.

"I was in first (in Whistler World Cup) last year but made a pretty big mistake in the second run and we finished third. I learned my lesson," said Humphries. "Some parts I beat down on my second run, but we came back. It felt decent. No run is ever perfect but we strive for consistency. We pushed well, and everything just came together."

Humphries had a lead of just three-hundredths of a second after the first run, and despite being behind Germany in the middle split she managed to pick up speed at the bottom and add another five-hundredths over the Germany I sled on her second trip down the course.

Speeds were incredibly fast on Thursday, with Hollingsworth posting a top speed of 140km/h and Humphries and Baadsvik posting a speed over 146km/h.

More updates to follow.

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