I’d like to introduce you to my #1 sports crush: the Canadian bobsled pilot, Kaillie Humphries.
In her own words:
Why do I crush? Keep reading…
As a (big) fan of both bobsleigh and skeleton, it has been a joy to watch her dominate the sport for several seasons and three Olympics (two golds and a bronze, yeah!). She is a top athlete, she’s talked about body positivity (and has awesome tattoos!), she has endured backlash for calling for equality in the sport (with long-time friend-and-nemesis, American bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor). A few years ago Husband had a chance to take a photo with her during competition, and that was the best souvenir he could have brought back for me. Last year, she was still fighting for women to get a 4-man (person?) event, but it’s been a long haul – back in 2015,
“I’m learning to embrace that badassness that comes with being a trailblazer. It’s been hard (treading beyond the gender barrier.) Even people on my coaching staff don’t believe it’s possible. Whether people are jealous, whether they hate or whether they honestly don’t believe — or they grew up in an era where it wasn’t possible to believe a woman can do anything. I believe.”
Many women who compete in bobsled say their biggest barrier is a lack of funding for training and competing at international levels. A four-man sled costs tens of thousands of dollars, and that doesn’t count the years of research and engineering behind its construction.
“We’ve seen that with many nations, if they have a limited budget and they have to decide between expanding their men’s program and starting a women’s program, it’s typically women that get cut out of the budget,” said Darrin Steele, the chief executive of U.S.A. Bobsled and Skeleton and a vice president of the international federation.
The international federation has set up a working group to try to address the issues that have prevented the progression of women in the sport, specifically focusing on the hurdles that make bobsledding prohibitively expensive.
The international federation is even considering the introduction of a new category: the monobob, a sled for one athlete. The federation would purchase a fleet of standardized sleds, making bobsled a contest of strength and driving skill rather than an arms race for the best and most expensive engineering.
The federation is also considering providing sleds in a variety of sizes — including four-man sleds — to athletes to help increase participation, with the goal of attracting more female drivers and more nations to participate.
However, the International Olympic Committee still needs to support expanding the women’s competition, Van Wees said. The committee’s Agenda 2020 includes a push for gender equality at the Olympic Games.
(In 2008, the Latvian bobsleigh federation cut the women’s team. I won’t post what representatives of the men’s team have even comparatively recently said about why there is no 2-man women’s team representing Latvia – but between a lack of moral support and having to find your own sponsorships and funding, I think ‘no women strong enough’ is a rather poor reason.)
Speaking exclusively to CBC, Humphries revealed she has filed a harassment complaint with Bobsleigh Canada.
“I found myself in a position where my workplace environment was impaired and I couldn’t compete. I filed it before the season and so I can’t talk too much about all of the details and how it goes. Currently the investigation is still going on.”
Humphries did not reveal what type of harassment she is alleging.
At the beginning of October, Humphries took to Twitter, saying she was stepping away from bobsleigh competition for the year. At that time, the three-time Olympic medallist did not provide any details why — she now says it’s directly because of the harassment investigation.
“It definitely it took months for me to build up the courage, for me to have that strength, that internal strength to come forward. I’m a strong person,” Humphries said.
“But until you’ve been challenged with this scenario, such as the one that I have found myself in, you never really know how you’re going react to it. It took months to build up the courage to be able to talk about it.”
So much fine talk about ruining men’s careers, but guess who goes under the bus when it comes right down to it?
Well, I hope she kicks everyone’s asses, then comes back to the bobsleigh and kicks everyone’s asses all over again. As a pilot, as a trainer, whatever – just so long as there’s a lot of ass-kicking going around.