YANQING, China – Kaillie Humphries, the world’s most successful female bobsled driver, won her first Olympic gold medal with the United States on Monday morning, easily taking the initial monobob event by 1.54 seconds over teammate Elana Meyers Taylor.
The 36-year-old Humphries, who left Canada for the United States in 2019, now has three Olympic golds and one bronze in four Games. She will go for a fourth gold later this week in the two-woman bobsled.
The silver was the third for Meyers Taylor, who started the day in fourth but moved into third after her first run and into second with her fastest run of the competition in her final turn.
Humphries, who built a strong 1.04-second lead over Sunday’s first two runs over her former Canadian teammate Christine de Bruin, who ultimately finished third, ran slightly slower in her first of two heats Monday but was quickly able to build a bigger lead as subsequent riders had even slower runs.
Monobob was added before this Olympics as a way to create more female disciplines for gender equality. For years, bobsled was a male-dominated sport with medals given for two- and four-man sled races. The two-woman sleds were introduced at the 2002 Winter Games.
Humphries has been a dominant presence in women’s bobsledding for four Olympics now, the first three as Canada’s top female sled driver. Originally a ski racer from Calgary, she switched to bobsled after a series of injuries knocked her out of the sport. Quickly, she became a skilled driver in the only women’s Olympic event before these Games, the two-woman sled. She won gold medals in Vancouver and Sochi and a bronze in PyeongChang for Canada.
But less than a year after the 2018 Olympics, she filed a complaint with Bobsleigh Canada alleging mental and emotional abuse by the country’s bobsled coach, Todd Hays, who had been hired not long before the PyeongChang Games. Hays, in legal responses, has denied the allegations, and he remains the country’s coach.
The relationship between Humphries and Bobsleigh Canada continued to sour, and Humphies, who married a former American bobsledder Travis Armbruster in 2019 and was living in Carlsbad, Calif., forced a release from Canada that year, joined the U.S. team and applied for American citizenship.
After a long and frantic wait for a passport, she was granted U.S. citizenship in December, just weeks before the Beijing Games began.
Competing as an American, Humphries has continued to be a powerful driver, both in the two-woman sled and in the monobob, winning the world championship in both events last year.
Meyers Taylor, 37, who had won two silvers and a bronze as the U.S. two-woman bobsled driver, was one of the people who supported Humphries in her move to the American team, even though it meant she lost some status as the country’s top female bobsledder. Like Humphries, she has become one of the world’s top monobob drivers in addition to being a leading two-woman sled driver.
Like Humphries, she came to Beijing with an excellent chance of winning two medals at these Games. But she nearly wasn’t able to compete after a bout with the coronavirus not long after arriving in China.
Meyers Taylor, who traveled to the Olympics with her husband Nic Taylor – an alternate on the American team – and their nearly-2-year-old son Nico (who has Down syndrome) wound up in isolation. Nic and Nico, along with Meyers Taylor’s father, Eddie Meyers, also tested positive and were placed in isolation, with Elana in one room, Nic next door and Eddie and Nico in the room next to Nic.
Meyers Taylor was named the flag bearer for the U.S. team during the Games’ Opening Ceremonies but was unable to attend because of coronavirus protocols. She recovered and left isolation in time to prepare for the monobob and two-woman races this week.