Canada's Humphries wins gold in bobsled opener
Canada's pilot Kaillie Humphries, right, with brakewoman Chelsea Valios, wave for cameras after they won the women's bobsled World Cup competition on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, in Lake Placid, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
The Associated Press
Published Friday, November 9, 2012 3:07PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 9, 2012 5:18PM EST
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Despite finishing behind winner Kaillie Humphries of Calgary, Lolo Jones and Tianna Madison couldn't hide their glee. Neither could their coach.
Jones and Madison, a pair of track-and-field Olympic stars who decided to try bobsledding, couldn't have imagined a better start to their new careers. Jones teamed with driver Jazmine Fenlator to win silver in the World Cup opener at Lake Placid on Friday.
Humphries, the reigning world champion, teamed with brakeman Chelsea Valois of Zenon Park, Sask., to easily win gold even though a few mistakes were made.
"They weren't perfect runs," Humphries said. "I've still got a lot of room for improvement, but it's a great start to the season.
"I'm just happy I could prevent a sweep (by the United States). All three of the brakemen on the podium were rookies, so I think that's a testament to our sport. We've got some stiff competition with the U.S."
Jones and Madison edged teammates Elana Meyers and Madison by a scant 0.01 seconds.
"I'm kind of in shock," said Jones, a two-time Olympic hurdler from Iowa. "We've been training with all the other Team USA members. It's been an inner battle within our own team. I think this is great that we had a great run today on race day. I'm so used to just so relying on myself. I've never experienced this level of having a team before."
Humphries and Valois finished the two runs in one minute 54.86 seconds, 0.47 seconds ahead of Fenlator and Jones.
"I'm shocked," Fenlator said after winning the first World Cup medal of her career. "In my wildest dreams, I did not think I would make it to the podium."
Later in the day, Steven Holcomb won the two-man gold medal as the United States swept the top two spots.
Holcomb and brakeman Steve Langton finished the two heats in 1:51.75 seconds to best teammates Cory Butner and brakeman Charles Berkeley by 0.60 seconds. Francesco Friedrich and Gino Gerhardi of Germany took the bronze.
Jones and Fenlator had the second-fastest start on the first run and were sixth the second time, while Meyers and Madison were third-fastest both times at the start.
"Little did I know coming out here would just like open up the floodgates to something just completely new for me," Jones said. "I'm just thrilled to be out here, and Jazmine's humble. She's really dealing with a true rookie.
"I'm a veteran in my own sport, but the first run she just had to drive to make up for my lack of technique because I'm still working on it. I'm not on the start line confident in all of my angles yet, so she has to really drive amazing. My hat's off to her. Literally, moments before she's still showing me angles."
Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans were ninth in USA-2 on a day the powerful Germans finished no better than fifth in the 16-sled field at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
"I just wanted to stay relaxed," Fenlator said. "I knew that Lolo was hyped. I just tried to stay nice and smooth. Lolo and Tianna have great experience in high-pressure situations. They stayed really calm, so even though they're rookies in the sport, you know on game day they're going to be ready to go."
"It's pretty awesome, she did great her first race," Meyers said of Madison. "They (Madison, Jones and Evans) are doing tremendous for this team. Just their spirit of competitiveness and willingness to fight for everything brings the whole level of the team up. It's pretty awesome having them here."
Meyers was instrumental in enticing the three track athletes -- Evans is a former shot putter and with Greubel set a new start record here last month -- to give bobsled a try. One race doesn't make a season, but the potential seems boundless.
"The veterans on the team did an amazing job reaching out to us and kind of teaching us step by step," said Madison, a gold medallist in the 4 x 100 relay in London last summer. "It was a totally different world for us. Elana definitely led the charge that helped bring us together as a team."
Todd Hays, the women's coach who has had his share of critics, simply stood to the side and soaked in the moment.
"I saw a lot of tendencies in the week with these girls of adding great velocity to the sleds," said Hays, a former star on the men's team who had a concussion and retired prior to the Vancouver Olympics. "It appeared to be a good match to team up the girls the way we did. Luckily for me, it worked out."
Hays said the plan was to rotate the rookies among sleds during the World Cup season in an effort to keep everyone healthy. He said the teams that will compete at Sochi in 2014 will be named at the start of next season's World Cup.
"I'm excited," Hays said. "It's great when you know someone can be very good and when they reach that potential, as a coach it feels great. I'm extremely proud. I'm passionate about the sport. I want to win. Any time we get two of our girls on the podium the first race, it's certainly a big day for us."