Humphries takes fourth-straight Whistler win 

Rissling just off the podium in fourth

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - HOPPING IN Kaillie Humphries gets into her bobsleigh as Cynthia Appiah pushes during their win at Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 3.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • HOPPING IN Kaillie Humphries gets into her bobsleigh as Cynthia Appiah pushes during their win at Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 3.

She soared for four.

Kaillie Humphries continued her dominance at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Dec. 3, winning her fourth consecutive women's two-man bobsleigh event at the site, which she said is her favourite track on the IBSF BMW World Cup circuit.

The two-time-defending Olympic gold medallist hasn't missed top spot at the track since 2010.

Humphries and new brakeman Cynthia Appiah — who has competed with Humphries in the four-man event — bested the Austrian sled of Christina Hengster by 0.24 seconds and the American team of Jamie Greubel Poser and Lauren Gibbs by 0.33 seconds. Canadian Alyssia Rissling, in her second World Cup race, took fourth with Melissa Lotholz, 0.59 seconds off the pace.

Humphries and Appiah got off to a great start, as Humphries broke her own track start record of 5.11 seconds, decreasing it to 5.09 on her first run. The American sled of Elana Meyers Taylor and Kehri Jones brought it down further, to 5.06, a couple sleds later, but they crashed and Meyers Taylor crossed the line without Jones in the sled, negating the run.

With solid competition on Saturday, Humphries was thrilled to show well in front of the home crowd.

"Win or loss, I'm just really happy with how Cynthia and I performed," Humphries said. "I had two good runs from the driving perspective. We pushed really well with the start record. Overall, that's more what I'm excited about."

Humphries, who raced with Lotholz last year, said Appiah was the brakeman to put her in the best position to win this time, and the rookie came through in her two-man debut.

"At the end of the day, the person that will be in the back of my sled will be the fastest person. Cynthia had the fastest singles (time) and she and I had the fastest team push during team testing in October, therefore it was warranted that she got the first World Cup. With her performance today, she'll continue to keep getting races," Humphries said. "Every time we wear that maple leaf, we represent our country. We want to provide Canada with the best potential at achieving greatness."

Appiah, meanwhile, overcame some butterflies to make her first start a memorable one en route to the triumph.

"I was a ball of nerves at the top before the first one and once I got that push, I was like 'OK, now I know what I'm doing. This is my role and I've done it well,'" she said. "I got to the bottom, was happy with the time and was like 'OK, let's just repeat it.'"

Rissling, who had previously raced at a World Cup in Calgary in 2014, was happy to show so well in her most recent opportunity.

"This was my first World Cup. There was one I got thrown into a couple years ago, but this was my first official one. I felt like we made a statement that we're here. It feels pretty good," she said. "It wasn't unrealistic to think about Top 6, but to be a couple tenths out of third place, that's pretty sweet."

It was the first race together for her and Lotholz, who have only practised together for a week.

"We wanted to make sure for a home race, we had the best results possible, so it was very exciting to team up and to be able to get fourth place, it's amazing. This is exactly why we teamed up," Lotholz said.

German gets redemption with two-man win

Francesco Friedrich is a hot starter.

But it hasn't quite translated into the finish he'd like.

The German bobsleigh pilot has now captured the first race of the World Cup season the past three years, but hasn't been able to turn that into a Crystal Globe as overall champion at the end of the year.

The 26-year-old continued his streak Friday night at the Whistler Sliding Centre with brakeman Thorsten Margis, capturing the two-man race by 0.46 seconds over Switzerland's Rico Peter and Thomas Amrhein and by 0.48 seconds over South Korea's Yunjong Won and Youngwoo Seo. The latter were the 2015-16 Crystal Globe champions.

"I feel very good. It's a crazy fast track and we made two good runs at the start," Friedrich said. "If you know where you have to drive, it's a good track and I like it."

It was a nice turnaround from his last run in Whistler in January, where Friedrich injured himself during the start of his first run and bowed out of the race.

The top Canadian sled was Justin Kripps with brakeman Jesse Lumsden, who finished just off the podium tied for fourth with the German duo of Johannes Lochner and Joshua Bluhm.

Kripps said conditions were slower than they were used to in training, and as a team that excels with higher speed, felt their style was cramped a bit with the way the track ran.

"We executed well on the track. Everything came together today but unfortunately that translated into fourth place instead of a medal," Kripps said. "We like it when it runs as fast as possible. We spent the preseason going 150-plus (kilometres per hour) in the two-man and today was 146, 147, which is unfortunate."

Kripps felt the other countries' sleds were set up to be faster and said the Canadians must find a way to keep up, noting he and his teammates will look at their equipment before the World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y. later this month.

Russians capture four-man in ITS WHISTLER return

It's been four years since the four-man bobsleigh event was held in Whistler, and a Russian sled welcomed its return.

Pilot Alexander Kasjanov and his team of Alexey Zaitsev, Aleksei Pushkarev and Maxim Belugin took the victory by 0.20 seconds over a Swiss sled helmed by Peter. Lochner's German crew had a stunning second run, jumping from 11th onto the podium in third.

Kripps' sled ended up in fifth, followed closely by Spring's in sixth. Nick Poloniato's entry ended up in 11th.

Spring, who won one of two two-man races here in Whistler in January, was disappointed to miss the podium in both events this time.

"I'm disappointed, to be honest. I had decent runs tonight, especially that second one was really nice," he said. "I was expecting to be on the podium for sure tonight, so to come away with sixth is disappointing for the team."

Spring repeated Kripps' thoughts in that the Canadians must find a way to make their sleds faster to keep up with the rest of the world.


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