Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries had little trouble defending her IBSF World Cup title Friday night (Nov. 23) at the Whistler Sliding Centre, as the Canadian pilot stretched her impressive run of women's bobsleigh victories to six, and made it a three-medal opening day for the host nation.
Humphries and rookie partner Chelsea Valois took gold, clocking in at one minute, 48.68 seconds to hold a huge advantage of 0.69 seconds over the field through two runs.
"The North American tracks like me and I like them too, so hopefully we can keep the streak going in Europe," said Humphries, whose next race comes up in two weeks time at Winterberg, Germany.
The Swiss team of Fabienne Meyer and first-time World Cup brakeman Elisabeth Graf took second spot, and third place belonged to Germany's Sandra Kiriasis and Berit Wiacker. Pilot Jenny Ciochetti and partner Kate O'Brien finished 13th in the Canada 2 sled, recording a two-run time of 1:51.04.
Humphries has won all three races to start the 2012-13 season and finished last winter by winning the world championship and the final two World Cups. She's made the perfect start to the year despite Valois having only joined the Canadian team this summer.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect this year," Humphries told the live feed following the win. "Chelsea, with this being her first year, we just went into it trying to do the very best that we can and it's turned out excellent so far."
Valois, a Saskatchewan native who now has three World Cup victories to start her career, has also been pleasantly surprised with the results.
"I do have to pinch myself," she laughed. "I didn't know what to expect when I joined the sport, but I knew by making Kaillie's team I'd have some success. That was a big accomplishment for me. I have been learning as I go, and still have lots of work to do, but it has been good so far."
Dating back to the Olympics, Humphries has three victories and a bronze medal from four races in Whistler.
Canadian women strong in skeleton
Canadian women took three of the top five spots in women's skeleton to kick things off Friday morning, led by a silver-medal finish from Sarah Reid.
Reid earned the second World Cup podium of her career with a two-run, combined time of one minute, 51.09 seconds at the Whistler Sliding Centre, moving up one spot from her third-place standing in the first heat.
"I'm really excited," said Reid, who won the season-opening race at Lake Placid but fell out of the top 10 at Park City, Utah, last weekend. "(Park City) wasn't a great race for me, especially coming off of such a good race in Placid. I wanted to put some pressure on myself this week and really set high goals for myself, so it's nice to touch the podium in this race."
Germany's Marion Thees, twice a winner in Whistler before, was victorious again on Friday, finishing 0.17 seconds clear of Reid. Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold put down a blistering second run to finish in the bronze position.
Canadian rookie Cassie Hawrysh netted her second-straight fourth-place result, missing the first podium of her career by just .02 seconds. Mellisa Hollingsworth, the race's defending champion, wound up fifth.
Hawrysh, who has just three starts at the World Cup level, wasn't dwelling on the small margin between herself and a podium finish.
"After three races, it's not frustrating, it's great," she said. "It's another Olympic qualifier for me, so that's really what the goal is this year, that's the main purpose. I'll get on the big podium when it really matters … but that's exactly why they give medals all the way to sixth, because racing in skeleton (comes down to) hundredths."
The three Canadians all remain in the top seven of the World Cup season standings, with Reid sitting third, Hollingsworth fifth and Hawrysh occupying seventh place.
Rush, Brown just short of gold
Rush was not as enthused with his silver-medal finish in Friday afternoon's two-man bobsleigh race, as he drove the Canada 1 sled with Brown to second place but wound up .04 seconds back of winning American duo Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton.
"I feel like it's gold or nothing here," said Rush, who was visibly crestfallen when watching Holcomb come in with the winning time. "I made a mistake on that second run. I made an error in corner four, and that's a pretty costly one.
"He put down a really good run and just clipped me."
Holcomb and Rush were three-tenths of a second clear of the field after the two runs, with third place shared by the Germany 3 and Russia 1 sleds. Rush and Brown provided the first podium finish of the season for Canada's men's team.
Meanwhile, Canada 2 pilot Chris Spring had a career-best, fifth-place finish, partnering with brakeman Jesse Lumsden.
"It's my first top-five finish and to do it here at home is great as well," said Spring.
Spring and Lumsden sat seventh after one run but their second-run time of 53.05 seconds helped them move up two spots.
"I'm really happy I was able to work with (Spring) today and get him his first top five," said Lumsden, the former star CFL running back. "I really wanted to push him to his first medal, I really did. I was so hungry for it. But if it does come again, I'm going to be better for him next time."
Justin Kripps drove Canada 3 to 12th position while paired with veteran pusher Cody Sorenson, who was competing in his first two-man World Cup race.
Racing resumes Saturday (Nov. 24) at 9 a.m. with the men's four-man bobsleigh race, followed by the men's skeleton event at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.whistler.com or with cash on-site at the Whistler Sliding Centre.