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Humphries, Meyers Taylor go 1-2 in World Cup finale

IGLS, Austria — The United States dominated in the two-woman bobsled World Cup finale in Igls on Saturday by claiming gold and silver medals as Kaillie Humphries drove to victory and Elana Meyers Taylor piloted her sled to a close runner-up result.

Humphries, of Carlsbad, California, teamed up with Lolo Jones on a day where they rallied back in the second heat to overtake the lead. Meyers Taylor joined push athlete Lake Kwaza to finish a mere 0.04 seconds off the pace set by their teammates to earn the silver medal.

“It’s nice to have this victory,” said Jones, of Des Moines, Iowa. “Everyone on this team did a great job, and it’s nice to see the U.S. finish as the top two sleds.”

“I am super proud of Lolo and this entire team,” Humphries said. “Today just shows that the U.S. women’s team is really strong, and we’re only going to get stronger heading into the Olympic year.”

Humphries has 26 World Cup career wins, but this is her first victory in Igls and her first medal finish this season in two-woman bobsled. In the three races she’s entered this season, she’s finished sixth twice and seventh once. Meanwhile, she’s been dominating in women’s monobob, which will make its Olympic debut in 2022. Eager to dial in two-woman, Humphries opted not to compete in monobob this week in order to capitalize on two-woman during training.

“I wanted to work smarter, not harder, heading into two weeks of World Championship racing,” Humphries said. “This is the fourth two-man sled I’ve driven this season, so it’s been a game of musical sleds. I knew I needed to work through that this week, which is why I decided not to race monobob and just focus on one discipline. It paid off.”

Humphries and Jones started their campaign for the medals by pushing the Omaze-branded sled off the start block with the fifth best push time of 5.60 seconds. Humphries positioned the team in third place with a downtime of 53.64 seconds. They were 0.09 seconds from the lead.

“It was close in that first heat, and I knew if I cleaned up some mistakes it was possible to move up,” Humphries said. “I was confident that Lolo was going to show up. We had the fastest velocity in the first run, so I just needed to clean up my drive.”

Meyers Taylor teamed with Kwaza, who was permitted by the Army to rejoin the team this week. The duo posted the fastest start time of 5.57 seconds for the fastest run of 53.55 seconds in the first heat. Katrin Beierl and Jennifer Jantina Oluumi Desire Onasanya from Austria were on the Americans’ heels, a mere one-hundredth of a second behind.

Humprhies and Jones were the first of the three teams to take a second heat. They bettered their start in run two to 5.57 seconds, and Humphries gained on the competition down the track. They crossed the finish line in 53.43 seconds, and waited to see how their combined time of 1:47.07 would hold up. 

Beierl and Onsanya dropped behind Humphries and Jones with a two-run combined time of 1:47.13. Meyers Taylor and Kwaza stepped up at the start with an impressive push time of 5.55 seconds, but fell back by four-hundredths of a second with a downtime of 53.56 seconds. Humprhies and Jones secured gold, followed by Meyers Taylor and Kwaza in second with a total time of 1:47.11. 

Saturday marked Jones’ third career World Cup bobsled victory, and ninth World Cup medal. She said she’s struggled this season, mainly because of the shortened number of runs due to the added women’s monobob discipline.

“It’s really crazy,” Jones said. “At one point I didn’t think I’d ever see the inside of a bobsled again. I was just trying to stay hopeful. With monobob, it’s hard because there are fewer training runs. If you’re not racing that week, then you don’t see the ice, so I went two weeks without taking a trip in a bobsled.

“I was trying to stay ready, and to not give up hope,” Jones added. “I owe a lot to Kaillie for being on my back, making sure I improve little things. Coaches Brian Shimer and Nick Cunningham have been our rocks out here. We have a limited staff because of COVID, but Nick has helped give me confidence again.”

The two-woman race concluded the 2020-2021 World Cup season. The women now travel to Altenberg, Germany to compete in the 2021 World Championships.

Bascue drives to 10th place

On the same day that Americans swept the top two steps of the podium in women’s bobsleding, Whitehall’s Codie Bascue and Kris Horn of Pembroke, Massachusetts finished out the two-man bobsled World Cup season with a 10th place result on Saturday. It marked Bascue’s first top-10 finish of the season.

“We’ve been in the middle of the pack and have had really close racing over the last couple of weeks, so it felt good to get into the leader’s box today and move up,” Bascue said. “I think we still need to work on our starts, but hopefully today’s finish gives us some momentum.”

Bascue and Horn powered the KOA-branded sled off the start block in 5.21 seconds in the first run, and Bascue navigated the team to the finish in 52.23 seconds for the 11th best time of the heat. They nearly matched their first start time with a push of 5.23 in the second heat, and Bascue bettered their downtime by nearly one-tenth of a second with a run of 52.15 seconds. Bascue and Horn gained a spot to move into the top 10 with a combined time of 1:44.38.

Francesco Friedrich and Alexander Schueller from Germany convincingly won by a margin of 0.72 seconds with a combined time of 1:43.08. Latvians Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis were second with a two-run total of 1:43.80, followed by Rostislav Gaitiukevich and Mikhail Mordasov from Russia in third with an aggregate time of 1:43.90.

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