WOMEN'S MONOBOB MEDALISTS AT THE 2022 WINTER OLYMPICS:
GOLD: Kaillie Humphries, USA, 4:19.27
SILVER: Elana Meyers Taylor, USA, (+1.54)
BRONZE: Christine de Bruin, CAN, (+1.76)
It may be "monobob," but for Team USA, it was a two-woman win.
At the end of four heats, Kaillie Humphries topped the field in the Olympic debut of women's monobob. With her third gold medal, Humphries – a two-time Olympic champion (and one-time bronze medalist) for Canada who gained United States citizenship just weeks ago – now holds the most golds of any female bobsledder in Winter Games history.
Meanwhile, Elana Meyers Taylor – a two-time silver medalist in two-woman bobsled who also earned bronze at Vancouver 2010, and one of just two mothers competing for the United States at these Games – earned monobob silver. In doing so, she became the oldest American woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics (37 years, 127 days).
Shortly after arriving for the 2022 Winter Olympics, Meyers Taylor tested positive for COVID-19. Isolated in quarantine for days, she was unsure whether she would be able to race. Meyers Taylor was cleared to compete on Feb. 5.
Previously, the only bobsled event for women at the Winter Olympics was "two-woman," which involves a separate pusher and brakewoman. In monobob, each individual athlete must shove, steer, and brake her own sled. The two-woman will still be contested at the 2022 Winter Olympics beginning Friday, Feb. 18 at 7 a.m. ET.
Day 1 of competition saw the majority of athletes struggle to steer a 350-pound sled down the Yanqing National Sliding Centre's icy, serpentine Xiaohaituo Bobsled and Luge Track, often referred to as "The Flying Snow Dragon" (or one of half a dozen other variations). Unfortunately, "The Dragon" pinballed most bobsledders from side to side and out of medal contention; the competition often resembled an Olympic version of bumper cars.
Not Humphries or Meyers Taylor, though. Meyers Taylor produced two solid runs with just a few bumps and snags. Meanwhile, Humphries secured a healthy lead of 1.04 seconds over former Canadian teammate Christine de Bruin by employing both strategy and speed.
Humphries kicked off Day 2 of competition with a clean start and gained momentum from there, though she clipped the wall on the "Dragon's Tail" – the 13th, and most brutal, of the track's 16 sharp curves.
In Heat 3, Canada's de Bruin couldn't close the gap. Despite clean lines, she continued to bleed time. Germany's Laura Nolte, who started in third, skidded to a full two seconds behind Humphries in her worst run yet. Nolte's poor showing opened the door for Meyers Taylor, who – in another consistent heat – swapped spots in the rankings.
For Heat 4, the start order reversed and the tension increased. But Meyers Taylor brought it home with her fists in the air – immediately securing at least a bronze medal with her best run of the competition, 1:05.11 – and the tears began flowing. As she hugged her team, chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" rang across the finish area.
The pressure must have gotten to de Bruin, who then struggled through her slowest heat of four and flip-flopped podium positions with Meyers Taylor.
Humphries, in the race's final run, was still up more than a second and a half over Meyers Taylor. She just needed one more clean heat. But if the last run (mostly) lacked drama, it also produced an incredibly inspiring result: Humphries crossed in 1:05.30, and claimed the Olympics' first monobob gold.
Following Day 1 of competition, Humphries was asked what it would mean to win gold for the U.S.
“It would be a huge honor,” she said, choking back tears. “It’s an honor to be here … [This opportunity], it’s not something that was guaranteed. It’s something that I had to fight tooth and nail for, I had to give up and sacrifice for. The U.S. really had to accept me, and take me on. And so to be able to be a citizen representing the place where I live, where I will grow and raise my family – I’m going to do everything I possibly can to stand on the podium.”
She added: “I want to be able to put my heart and soul into it, and I know the country backs me for that.”