WHISTLER (Reuters) - Canadians hogged the fast lane at Whistler’s Sliding Center on Wednesday as Kaillie Humphries roared to gold and Helen Upperton surged to silver in the women’s Olympic bobsleigh.
Humphries and brakewoman Heather Moyse ripped up the track records during the two-day competition, the red maple leaf emblazoned on their gleaming white sled mostly a blur as they left their rivals scrapping for silver.
Such was their mastery of a menacing home track that produced more high-speed spills on Wednesday that they led from start to finish and won by 0.85 seconds -- their fourth run merely a third-gear cruise to victory.
To put their winning margin into context it was similar to sprint king Usain Bolt slowing down and strolling over the winning line on his way to 100m gold at the Beijing Olympics.
“I didn’t even know the margin until just now,” Humphries told reporters after hundreds of red and white clad Canadian fans toasted their new Crazy Canucks at the finish area.
”All week I just tried to drive the track like I know how to drive it. I knew if Heather pushed like she’s pushed all season and if I could drive like I know we would be in the medals.
“I‘m just so excited that we came here and put down the runs that we knew we were capable of.”
As Humphries and Moyse, both with the Canadian flag stenciled on to their cheeks, waited for their final run in the starting area they jigged around with their headphones on and revealed afterwards one of the songs they were listening to was a country number called Big Green Tractor.
“It’s a favorite of ours,” Humphries said. “But when I first started driving they said I used to drive the bobsleigh like I was driving a tractor!”
On Wednesday it was more like a Ferrari as they made mincemeat of a track that proved too much for British world champion Nicola Minichiello and Germany’s Cathleen Martini -- both punished ruthlessly for mistakes on corner 13 which has earned the nickname 50-50.
“This track is very challenging and as soon as you become complacent it will bit you in the butt,” Moyse, who narrowly missed a bronze with Upperton in Turin, said. “But we did it. One-two at home, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
As Canada’s speed queens basked in glory it was a different story for German sledders who were left scratching their heads after failing to make the podium for the first time since women’s bobsleigh made its Olympic debut in 2002.
Reigning Olympic champion and three-times world champion Sandra Kiriasis was fourth, one and a half seconds off the searing pace set by Humphries while Germany’s second driver Martini rolled over as she battled for the bronze medal that went to American Erin Pac.
Martini went high on curve 11 and her sled tottered and then tipped over at 13, spilling brakewoman Romy Logsch in the process. Earlier, Minichiello slithered to the finish upside down before a tearful embrace with brakewoman Gillian Cooke.
“We have a few bruises but it hurts more on the inside,” Martini said. “I drove for all or nothing.”
Humphries is Canada’s second gold medalist from the sliding events after skeleton speedster Jon Montgomery’s sensational victory last week and the celebrations were set to last into the night down in Whistler’s heaving bars.
Editing by Miles Evans