Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Canada rallies past US for women’s bobsled gold

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — They called it the Battle Royale. Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers spent part of the summer training alongside one another, getting ready to spend this winter battling each other.

They shared a coach. They shared philosophies. They shared knowledge.

They could not share the Olympic gold medal.

It belongs to Humphries.

Canada’s team of Humphries and Heather Moyse are again queens of Olympic women’s bobsledding, rallying past the U.S. duo of Meyers and Lauryn Williams on Wednesday night to win gold at the Sochi Games.

It’s the second straight Olympic title for Humphries and Moyse, and it wasn’t decided until the final moment of the competition — then only by a tenth of a second.

“We knew it was going to be this way,” Humphries said after becoming the first women’s bobsledder to drive to back-to-back Olympic golds.

So close, all season. The World Cup title went to Humphries, by a single point. So did the Sochi title, by a sliver of the time it takes to blink.

“Anytime you come that close and you can taste it, if you don’t get the result, it hurts a little bit,” Meyers said. “But Kaillie just beat me.”

Meyers, of Douglasville, Ga., became the first U.S. women’s bobsledder to win multiple Olympic medals, this one added to the bronze she captured as a brakeman in Vancouver. Williams, of Rochester, Pa., became the first U.S. woman and fifth athlete overall to win medals in different sports at both the Summer and Winter Games, her silver here added to a sprint relay gold from London in 2012 and a silver from the 100 meters in Athens in 2004.

“I didn’t come here to make history,” Williams said after what could very well be her final bobsled race, just six months after she gave the sport a try. “I came here to help Team USA and I feel like I did. It wasn’t about history for me. It wasn’t about the medal for me. It’s all about the journey.”

Jamie Greubel of Newtown, Pa., paired with brakeman Aja Evans of Chicago to grab the bronze in USA-2, giving the U.S. two Olympic women’s bobsled medal winners for the first time.

“We have so much depth in our program and so much talent on our team,” Greubel said. “And to be able to show the world that we are a force to be reckoned with is really awesome.”

All true.

But this night belonged to Humphries and Moyse.

They were second behind Meyers and Williams in USA-1 after the first two runs on Tuesday and left the track not knowing or caring how far behind they were. The way they saw it, showing up on Wednesday and going as fast as they could was all that mattered.

Moyse did acknowledge that she knew a comeback was possible.

And after the third heat, that was obvious to everyone. They cut by more than half the 0.23-second deficit they faced entering Wednesday’s final two heats. Humphries went next-to-last in the final run, throwing down a sizzling 57.92 to put the pressure on USA-1. Moments later, when Meyers had an early skid in her final trip down the track, the gold was essentially decided.

Still, USA-1 hardly seemed dissatisfied with Sochi silver. After all, just a few days ago, they needed their sled rebuilt after a crash — and still almost won gold.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” Meyers said.

When it was over, Williams wrapped herself in an American flag, jumping up and down while she and Meyers smiled broadly.

Not long afterward, all three U.S. teams — including Lolo Jones of Des Moines, Iowa, and Jazmine Fenlator of Wayne, N.J., who were 11th in USA-3 — were arm in arm, celebrating that two medals are America-bound.

And to Jones, seeing Williams — a fellow track athlete turned bobsledder — etch her spot in Olympic history meant just about everything.

“She’s like a Jesse Owens. I hope she just inspired a whole country,” Jones said. “When I get home I hope she’s a household name. Her transformation was the most brilliant thing I’ve ever watched.”

For Jones, it was not the Olympics she dreamed about. Her third trip to the games — the first two as a hurdler, in Beijing and London — also ended without a medal.

Jones clipped a hurdle to lose what would have been gold in Beijing and fought through injury to finish fourth in London, finding both results difficult to accept. At these games, going home without a medal was hardly her fault, as the push times for USA-3 — which was not expected to be in medal contention — were hardly the problem.

As a few fans chanted their names, Fenlator and Jones both gave big waves, accompanied by wide smiles when it was over.

That alone seemed like victory for Jones, whose first two Olympic experiences ended in heartbreak. And after the racing was done, all six women on the U.S. Olympic team — the “wolfpack,” they called themselves — celebrated their season, together.

“This has been amazing,” Williams said, “all the way to the end.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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