Olympics-Bobsleigh-U.S. lead halfway in debut ‘Porsche on ice’ monobob

Bobsleigh - Women's Monobob Official Training
2022 Beijing Olympics – Bobsleigh – Women’s Monobob Official Training – National Sliding Centre, Beijing, China – February 10, 2022. Kaillie Humphries of the United States in action during training. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

February 13, 2022

By David Kirton

YANQING, China (Reuters) – Kaillie Humphries of the United States led at the halfway mark of the first-ever Olympic monobob event in Yanqing, with the two-time gold medallist opening up a yawning 1.04 second gap between her and Canada’s Christine de Bruin in second.

Monobob is one of seven new events at the Beijing Games and the only one exclusively for women, with drivers pushing a 130-kg (286 lb) sled as fast as they can before jumping in and barrelling down an icetrack at speeds up to 120 kph (75 mph).

“Monobob is probably the most difficult sliding event,” said Jamaica’s Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, speaking after her first two runs on Sunday.

“The sled weighs almost as much as a two-person sled, but you have one person that has to push it, has to navigate driving down.”

“By not having that weight and mass it feels like it’s a Porsche that’s sliding on ice, hydroplaning, and you have to have a lot of finesse – you can’t do too much, you can’t do too little, it doesn’t respond the same, and everyone in this field is learning this sport at the same time.”

It would be Humphries’ first gold for the United States – her previous two were with her birth country Canada, but she switched teams and citizenship after filing a harassment complaint https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bobsleigh-can-humphries-idUSKCN1VY1V1 against Bobsleigh Canada in 2018.

As the reigning World Cup champion in both the monobob and two-woman bobsleigh events, she was favourite going into the race.

“I know what it means to represent the United States,” she told reporters. “I’m so proud and honoured to be able to be here because nothing in life is guaranteed.”

Germany’s Laura Nolte was 1.22 seconds behind the leader in third, still in with a chance of making it seven sliding golds out of seven for her country.

Drivers were trying to adapt to a much colder track at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre on Sunday morning, with temperatures dropping to -7 Celsius compared with positive numbers in the days before.

The monobob’s inclusion was intended to bolster the number of female athletes who can compete in the bobsleigh events in Beijing, which now stands at 124 for men and 46 for women.

It is also intended to lower the cost of participation, with monobobs all identical in design and costing about 40,000 euro ($45,400), much less than the 75,000 euro and upwards for a two-person bobsleigh.

However, 14 of the 20 competitors in the monobob are also racing in the two-woman event, in part because the event’s quota system gives extra points to participants in the other discipline.

Fenlator-Victorian said the sport needed to do more to increase diversity.

“I think the intention is there but the execution has failed, the system has failed us as athletes … we really need to take a step back and think about what the objective is.”

Ghana’s Akwasi Frimpong and Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo competed at the Olympics in 2018 thanks to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation’s (IBSF) continental quota system.

However, the system was dropped ahead of the Beijing games, leaving the sliding sports with no African representation.

“Sadly, it becomes that if you have money and you live in a certain area, you reap the benefits, and of course that it always going to happen, but how can we level a playing field enough so that people can at least try the sport,” Fenlator-Victorian said.

The Jamaican’s team just missed out on a spot in the two-woman event.

($1 = 0.8811 euros)

(This story has been refiled to fix punctuation in headline, paragraph one)

(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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