Last night when bobsleigh’s two time Olympic gold medalist
jumped the fence* to hug her mom and dad she was shaking and crying. With her hands locked around her biggest fans, the 28-year-old 73kg extreme athlete squeezed her mom tighter and whispered “don’t let me go.” The victory was spectacular! After two runs on the track, the nine-year bobsleigh veteran (her victories include two back-to-back world championships) was behind Team USA’s
, her summertime training partner (they shared a coach and world-class preparation). On run three (the following day) a near perfect run meant that she was able to shorten the lead and put her right where she needed to be seated going into the final run. I was at the Sanki Sliding Center to watch these final races with her parents, Calgary natives
Cheryl and Ray Simundson
(Humphries is Kaillie’s married name, a name she may or may not keep now that she is divorced, says her mom). Ray was thrilled with
Kaillie’s speed and precision
on run three—my heart was beating through my chest as I was listening to him talking to her through the big screen at the track that we were all watching the race on. (I know well that if you are a parent, it’s not uncommon to find yourself giving instructions to your children even though you know full well they can’t actually hear you. But you do it anyway….) Cheryl, dressed in Canada gear head to toe, a maple leaf on her left cheek, a variety of good luck charms strung from her shoulder purse and armed with a giant red cowbell, cheered and jumped with joy. This jumping and joy was also the reaction after the fourth run as the duo of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse laid down an incredible performance that the US could not match. Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won the gold and the crowd went wild! “This gold was even sweeter than the gold she won in Vancouver,” Cheryl told us at the celebration party four hours later. Dad Ray nods his head. After the huge jump-over-the-stands hug from his daughter, hugs from the everyone in the crowd at the finish line, a live CBC interview, an hour train ride back to our hotel and the popping of celebration champagne, his foot is still tapping, a sign of a body still pumping adrenaline at high levels.
So after all these wins, what did Kaillie say to her parents as she hugged them seconds after winning her second Olympic gold medal? The strangest thing I’ve ever heard her says, Ray tells me. “She asked me, ‘what am I supposed to do
?’” This tell-it-like-it-is, big-hearted cowboy simply replied, “You set a new goal.” As Ray and Cheryl tell me about this conversation, I have goose bumps. What could possibly be next for Ms. Invincible? You bet that I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting to find out and cheering her along. Kaillie Humphries, you make Canada proud! Congratulations Simundson family, you are a true inspiration! More cowbell. *Who is going to stop the woman who can arguably run 30 metres faster than anyone in the world, back squats 150kgs like it’s no big deal (her dad showed me a video on his phone) and has endured what must equate to a total of two weeks worth of time getting inked all over her body. (Check out these beautiful shots of her
5 Bobsleigh FAQs
Some things I have learned over the last few days while hanging out with Kaillie Humphries’ mom and dad:
The event is called “bobsleigh”. The rocket-like capsule on skates that races down the hill at speeds close to 130km/h is called a bobsled. Don’t say “bobsled” when you mean “bobsleigh.”
Watching bobsleigh is like watching a rocket go by. Turn your head right then left really fast and you’ve seen the bobsled go by. Thankfully giant screens filming the runs are set up at every viewing area so you can see what’s going on. The best place to be is at the end of the track.
Yes, Kaillie Humphries races in two-woman bobsleigh but is the star of the bobsleigh duo because she is the “driver.” She not only has to run at lightning speed to give the bobsled momentum, she drives the bobsled with her strength and precision. Heather Moyse is the “brakeman” (brakewoman). Explained simply, her job is run really fast to get the bobsled going and put on the brakes at the end
After the athletes cross the finish line, the run hits an incline of about 30-degrees or so to slow down the bobsled as the handbrakes are applied. If the runner (the person in the back) gets knocked out and becomes unconscious** and cannot apply the handbrakes, there is an even steeper incline that follows and that slows them down to a stop. **Bobsleigh is not a sport for wimps.
A bobsleigh competition consists of four runs. The score from each run is added together to make up the team’s total time and final score. Winners often win by a 100
of a second.
As an invited media guest of Olympic sponsor P&G and their Thank You Mom campaign, I have exclusive behind-the-scenes access to a number of Canadian Olympians and get the inside scoop on what they are really like from the ones who know them best of all: their moms and dads.