Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries celebrate during the Women’s Monobob medal ceremony at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 14, 2022 in February 14, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
BEIJING — Kaillie Humphries is a newly minted U.S. citizen. And now she is also monobob’s first Olympic champion.
Through four heats, Humphries remained on top of the monobob standings, which made its debut at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The four-time Olympian won the gold medal with a combined time of 4:19.27.
“I still remember 2002 and watching Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers win the first women's bobsled gold medal [at an Olympic Games],” said Humphries, with the monobob gold medal draped around her neck and the crochet podium flowers still in her hand. “To know that I have my little piece of history in sport is a huge accomplishment.”
Right behind Humphries, Elana Meyers Taylor overcame a stressful Winter Games to claim silver in 4:20.81. Meyers Taylor slid the fastest fourth run, earning back 0.19 from Humphries’s lead and moving from third into second place. At the halfway point last night, she had sat in fourth place and moved into medal contention on her third run this morning.
“It feels better than gold,” said Meyers Taylor who tested positive for COVID-19 when she arrived in Beijing and spent a week in isolation away from her husband and almost-two-year-old son, Nico.
“This is definitely the most difficult medal I've ever earned,” she continued. “It's definitely been the hardest journey to get here. I am so excited to take this medal back to my son is at the hotel.”
In the final run, Meyers Taylor pushed Canada’s Christine de Bruin to bronze-medal position. De Bruin, who won two monobob world series races this winter, finished third in 4:21.03.
Both Humphries and Meyers Taylor are bobsledding veterans with four Olympic medals each: 36-year-old Humphries has three gold and a bronze, and 37-year-old Meyers Taylor three silvers and a bronze. Both worked to bring gender parity to the Olympic Games with more events for women (men slide both two-man and four-man events; until this Games, women only competed in two-man). They had hoped a four-woman event would make its Olympic debut but were happy to have a second event on the 2022 Olympic program.
“To have this opportunity, to have this event and to be next to [Kaillie] on the podium, it's like a storybook ending,” said Meyers Taylor.
Humphries and Meyers Taylor came to at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre’s Ice Dragon track
as heavy favorites to win medals in monobob’s Olympic debut.
With four wins this season, Meyers Taylor is the 2022 overall monobob world series champion, and Humphries is the reigning (and to date, only) monobob world champion.
But both Americans have had challenges this season — in fact, over the past Olympic quadrennial.
Humphries was a three-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist for Canada. But after the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, she immigrated to the U.S. and received a green card through marriage. Her husband Travis Armbruster was on the U.S. bobsled team 12 years ago. Her grandfather is an American citizen as well, and she had spent childhood summers in the States — and learned to sing the National Anthem attending baseball games with him.
Humphries wanted to become a dual citizen and sought to be released from the Canadian bobsled team. In 2019, she began sliding for Team USA.
But until two months before the 2022 Winter Games opened, Humphries was not yet a U.S. citizen. The uncertainty wore on her, knowing that “it wasn't my talent or my skill that was going to not allow me to be here,” she said. “It was going to be whether I got my citizenship in time, which isn't up to me.”
Then on December 1, 2021, she flew from Altenberg, Germany, where she was training for an upcoming world cup, back to California for her citizenship test and a final interview. She passed, did a swearing-in ceremony, then flew back to Germany, winning both the two-man bobsled competition as well as monobob that weekend. It was one of two world cup monobob victories for Humphries this season.
“I had to resign myself to the fact that it might not come through, and I had to be okay with that fact,” she said. “I think that's what allowed me to be so strong here. As soon as I got my citizenship, the motivation went through the roof.”