For Kaillie Humphries, this was a win unlike any other.
Capping an unforgettable week, the Calgary native Humphries won a women’s monobob race on Saturday, doing so less than 48 hours after she completed a 12,000-mile round trip from Germany to the United States and finished the process of gaining citizenship.
It was the 44th international victory of her career on various circuits and at various levels, plus her 12th as a member of the U.S. bobsled team, and her first as an American citizen.
“My first win, officially, as an American,” she said on the medals stand in Altenberg, Germany, with her hand over her heart, just a few seconds after realizing she had prevailed.
WATCH | Humphries wins gold in 1st World Cup race since gaining U.S. citizenship:
Humphries had to rally to get the victory. She finished two runs in two minutes 0.57 seconds, just 6-100ths of a second faster than Cynthia Appiah of Toronto, who held the lead after the first heat. Laura Nolte of Germany was third, 0.53 seconds back of Humphries.
The week wasn’t easy: Humphries was in six different beds in six nights and had the halfway-across-the-world trip squeezed in, with her Olympic hopes hinging on the outcome of the citizenship process. She acknowledged Saturday not knowing if she would be eligible to compete at the Beijing Games had taken a toll.
Without citizenship, Humphries, a three-time Olympic medalist who came to the U.S. team three years after gaining her release from her native Canada, had no path to the Games this winter. Now, she’s going to be a medal favourite.
“I’d wake up and wonder why I’m doing this, days where I lacked motivation,” Humphries said. “When things get hard you start to doubt, and when you don’t have the Olympics as the end goal that you’re fighting for, those doubts creep in. I love what I do, but being able to wake up today and not have the stress of not knowing whether or not I’d be able to compete in the Olympics was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
In late October, Appiah gave fans a glimpse of her potential on the bobsleigh track in Beijing if given the opportunity to return for Olympic competition in February.
WATCH | Appiah captures 1st World Cup medal as pilot:
Sport making Olympic debut in Beijing
She blazed to a two-run time of 2:10.46 in the Chinese city for third place at a Winter Games test event, the first career podium finish for the 31-year-old as a pilot at the elite level.
Competing full-time on the World Cup circuit this season, Appiah finished fifth at the world championships last season.
Her teammate, Christine De Bruin of Stony Plain, Alta., finished 7-100ths off the medal podium in fourth (2:01.17) on Saturday, while Melissa Lotholz of Barrhead, Alta., was 18th of 19 finishers in 2:06.53.
Monobob will make its Olympic debut at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.
In the two-man race later Saturday, Francesco Friedrich of Germany rallied to win again and extend his streak to 35 consecutive World Cup two-man races with a medal.
Friedrich and Alexander Schueller were only third after the first heat, then had a blistering second run and prevailed in 1:49.96. Johannes Lochner and Christopher Weber were second for Germany in 1:50.20 and the Russian sled of Rostislav Gaitiukevich and Mikhail Mordasov was third in 1:50.23.
Friedrich now has 66 medals — 51 gold, 11 silver, four bronze — in his last 70 major international two- and four-man races including World Cup events, the Olympics and the world championships.
Competition continues Sunday with the women’s race and the four-man event.