Humphries fueled by determination

ALTENBERG, Germany — When Kaillie Humphries won the women’s bobsled 2012 World Championships in Lake Placid she watched as the men’s bobsled champions hoisted a trophy etched with the names of generations of winners.

There was no trophy to commemorate the women, who were added to the championship program in 2000. There were nine teams that won the title before Humphries and her push athlete, Jennifer Ciochetti. Eight of them were German teams, interrupted only by Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cookie from Great Britain in 2009. Humphries and Ciochetti were the first North American team to win the title. Elana Meyers Taylor and Cherrelle Garrett would later become the first U.S. women’s team to win world championships in 2015.

Humphries was frustrated, but she and her family didn’t sit back and wait for someone else to find a solution. Her parents, Ray and Cheryl Simundson, offered to purchase and donate a trophy to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) so the women’s legacy in the sport would be honored alongside the men’s. 

“My parents are rock stars,” Humphries said. “They believe that girls can do and be anything, and that there’s nothing we can’t do.”

The Simundson’s offer prompted the IBSF to make a trophy, which was presented to Humphries one year later when she won her second title at the 2013 World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

When Humphries returned home to Canada, she and her parents researched all of the women’s winners and had their names engraved on the trophy. Humphries paid for the engraving herself without expecting reimbursement or recognition. 

“She wanted to add those in the past that deserved to have their names on this trophy to represent what women can do and have done, right alongside the men,” Cheryl Simundson said. “We are extremely proud of the things she has done to make the sport a better place to be in. She’s leaving a legacy for the future generation of girls and young women, showing that one person can make a difference no matter how small.”

Humphries’ drive to succeed and desire to do the right thing isn’t a surprise to her parents. Cheryl Simundson said Humphries was born with determination. When she was 7, Humphries stood on her chair at the dinner table and announced that she was going to win an Olympic medal.

Cheryl Simundson said she responded by saying, “That’s great dear, now sit down and finish your dinner.”

Finding Humphries’ currency was easy. Cheryl Simundson said her daughter wanted a tattoo, and she “would have done anything to get one.”

“We made a promise that if she made the national team, which we thought would be in alpine skiing, we would all get a tattoo,” Cheryl Simundson said. “Then we told her to go finish her English assignment and we didn’t really think about again it for a few years.”

Humphries was ranked 15th at the age of 15 in alpine, and after breaking both legs in different races, she decided to switch sports and try out for the Canadian bobsled team.

Humphries made the national team in her rookie season.

Cheryl Simundson said “a promise is a promise,” and they all got tattoos.

Humphries said she didn’t think asking for a women’s trophy and engraving it with the women’s winners was special; she was just standing up for what she thought was right and fair.

“I don’t like hearing the word no, or getting less than I deserve because someone else thinks it’s not warranted,” Humphries said. “The rumors are true, I hold people to a high standard; but it’s the same level I hold myself accountable to.”

That high standard is why Humphries has won 53 World Cup medals, five World Championship medals, four overall World Cup titles, and three Olympic medals; and why she’s one of the favorites to win in this weekend’s 2020 World Championships in Altenberg, Germany. 

Humphries is four runs away from etching her name on the trophy again.


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