- Women's Bobsled
Outdriven in Sochi, U.S. women hope to carry experience to 2018 Games
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The difference between women’s bobsled gold and silver was one-tenth of a second and four years of experience.
Canadian Kaillie Humphries came back to defend her Olympic title, erasing a deficit of 0.23 seconds after the first two runs and beating American Elana Meyers by 0.1 after four runs at Sanki Sliding Center on Wednesday night.
Meyers, with push athlete Lauryn Williams, averaged nearly 0.05 seconds faster in start times per run than Humphries and Heather Moyse, a critical portion of the race that can dictate speed the rest of the way down the track.
The U.S. also has fantastic technology, new BMW sleds that awed Humphries.
That left one area for Humphries to really make up ground on Meyers –- driving.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the lens: Humphries golden; U.S. wins silver, bronze in women's bobsled
They say it can take eight years for drivers to hit their peaks.
Humphries has been driving for eight years, ever since being left off the 2006 Olympic Team when she was a push athlete.
Meyers has been driving for four years, ever since winning bronze at the 2010 Olympics as a push athlete.
“It makes a big difference, in all fairness,” Humphries said.
Humphries put together four consistent runs over two days, keeping her golden form at major championships, the only events that switch from the two- to four-run format.
She changed her sled’s runners from Tuesday to Wednesday but wasn’t fazed in her driving approach, despite the deficit.
Embedded video_content_type: USA's Meyers, Williams soak in silver win
Humphries trained with Meyers last summer and is so close to the American that she will attend Meyers’ wedding in April.
That partnership helped Meyers, the 2013 world silver medalist, close the gap on 2013 world champion Humphries this World Cup season. Humphries barely won her third straight season title, 1,629-1,628 over Meyers. Points were accumulated over eight races across North America and Europe.
The partnership also allowed Humphries to learn more about her biggest rival. She went into Sochi knowing she had a consistency edge over Meyers. That showed Wednesday.
Meyers matched her start record in the third of four runs, but after getting into the sled she struggled, hitting a wall and skidding. The 0.23 lead was down to 0.11. The Canadians were confident.
"After the third run I said to Kaillie, 'You know what, the gap is closing,’” Moyse said.
In the fourth and final run, Humphries threw down the fastest time of the field. Then came Meyers, going last. She skid again.
Humphries watched on a screen at the bottom of the track, recognizing Meyers’ mistakes.
“That’s pressure,” Humphries said. “Driving experience plays a factor into that.”
Experience was the edge.
Humphries and Moyse won their second straight Olympic gold together. They were the only driver-push athlete combo in the 19-sled field that also competed together at the 2010 Olympics.
Meyers was the only member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Bobsled Team with previous Winter Olympic experience, and it was under completely different circumstances as a push athlete.
“I have a lot to learn,” said Meyers, who said she was delighted with silver, becoming the first two-time U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled medalist. “Driving is all about consistency. That’s what it takes to win Olympic gold. It takes four consistent runs. I didn’t have ‘em.”
The next four years will be about gathering consistency. That will come with experience.
Meyers, 29, plans on seeing through to Pyeongchang 2018, as does Humphries, 28.
Who else will be in Meyers’ sled is a big question.
Three-time track Olympian Lauryn Williams became the fifth person to win Winter and Summer Olympic medals in different disciplines, pushing for Meyers this week. She is 30, retired from sprinting and wouldn’t commit to anything past eating a pizza Wednesday night.
USA-2 driver Jamie Greubel, who won bronze Wednesday, said she will drive next season and then “see how it goes.”
Embedded video_content_type: USA-2’s Greubel fights the wall for bronze
Greubel’s push athlete, Aja Evans, is going back to track and field as a heptathlete. She’s thinking about the Rio Olympics.
"I'll take seven days off and begin preparing for track,” she said. “It's going to be brutal. I need to lose 15 pounds.”
Fenlator will keep driving. She wants Jones to return.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Jazmine Fenlator, bobsled
“I told her she can take a break for Rio,” Fenlator said, “but I’m going to reel her back in.”
Jones is 31 and re-entering track as an underdog. She finished fifth in the 100m hurdles at last year’s U.S. Championships, behind a top three all at least five years younger than her.
In bobsled, there’s sure to be changeover next season, but Meyers will be the steady leader. She will continue to chase Humphries, and she may very well catch and pass her very soon.
“She’s got the physical ability to do it,” said Helen Upperton, a two-time Canadian Olympic bobsledder now working for CBC. “Kaillie’s a great driver, but if you’re getting outstarted, and as people acquire more runs, they’re going to become better pilots. She’s already giving Kaillie a run for the money.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Elana Meyers, bobsled
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