Monobob, the do-it-yourself sliding sport that features one female bobsledder pushing and piloting her own sled, made its Olympic debut on Sunday with two Americans vying for a medal.
Kaillie Humphries will enter Monday’s final heats with a substantial lead of more than a second after she finished her first two heats in a combined 2 minutes 9.10 seconds.
With a win, Humphries would become the first American woman to collect a gold medal for two countries at the Winter Games. (John-Henry Krueger, a short-track speedskater, achieved the feat last week while competing for his new country, Hungary.)
Humphries became an American citizen in December following a lengthy and acrimonious split with Bobsleigh Canada, a program she represented at three previous Olympics. She was part of the winning two-woman bobsled teams at the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Games.
On Sunday, Humphries set a quick pace on the possible path to another gold. She established a track record at the National Sliding Center in Yanqing, China, with a first run of 1:04.44.
“I’m literally just pretending like today didn’t exist and having a fresh race tomorrow,” Humphries said. “Easier said than done, I can promise you that, but at the end of the day, I’ve had practice at doing it, and I’ve won and I’ve lost in this position.”
Christine de Bruin of Canada trailed Humphries by 1.04 seconds after the first two heats, followed by Laura Nolte of Germany.
Elana Meyers Taylor, the other American in the event, was in fourth, 1.32 seconds behind Humphries.
“Not too bad for a 37-year-old mom, you know,” Meyers Taylor said. “I’m the oldest driver in the competition and the only one coming off a pregnancy, so I’m very excited about the starts.”
Monobob, a women-only event where a single sledder pushes and drives her bobsled down an icy track, makes its Olympic debut this weekend.
Here’s what monobob is all about →
For Meyers Taylor, who has won two silver medals and a bronze in the two-woman event at three previous Olympics, just making it to the competition was an adventure.
She was chosen as one of the United States’ flag-bearers for the opening ceremony, but tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after arriving in Beijing.
She isolated for nearly a week before testing negative twice, keeping alive her hopes of competing in monobob and the two-woman event.
The International Olympic Committee announced monobob’s Olympic inclusion in 2018 for women only. Men don’t have monobob but they do compete in the four-man bobsled event, which doesn’t have a competition for women.
Humphries and Meyers Taylor are among those campaigning for a four-woman bobsled event, which would allow more women opportunities to compete in the sport at a high level.
“It’s improving very slow,” Humphries said in a December interview. “Turtle pace, real slow.”