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Humphries champions 4-man bobsleigh for women

Humphries champions 4-man bobsleigh for womenWomen's bobsleigh gold medalist Kaillie Humphries smiles during the medals ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Morry Gash

TORONTO - She has successfully defended her Olympic gold medal and plans to compete in the 2018 Games, but Kaillie Humphries still has her sights set on achieving yet another goal in bobsleigh: having women take part in the four-man competition.

Humphries said she plans to make a proposal this summer to her sport's international governing body. The Calgary athlete hopes to help lead the charge by seeking to train and compete with men as the pilot of a four-person sled.

"Women don't have four-man — yet," Humphries said in an interview Friday, sporting her gold medals from the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics.

"We're in a situation where women for a lot of years in our sport have always been told that we're not as good a pilot, or we're not as strong. And I think we're at a point where women are proving now that we are just as good.... We're competing on the same level. And so it's got to start somewhere.

"We're still very much an all-boys club, and we're still fairly new," she added, noting that women first competed in Olympic bobsleigh at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

"But at the same time, you've got the chicken and the egg. You're not going to get more girls coming in unless you have more events. At the same time, they're saying you can't have more events until you have more girls."

Humphries said if women aren't allowed to start competing in four-man bobsleigh, then maybe she can "join the guys."

"I'll definitely have to have three men behind me in order to be competitive at all, but I feel like that could be a start and a step in a right direction towards encouraging women to come out to the sport, which will hopefully raise the profile a little bit more. And from there, we can hopefully get four-man started (for women)."

The 28-year-old acknowledged that it will be an uphill climb, saying she'll have to attend driving school and qualify "just like any other men's team would," adhering to both the Canadian system and international rules.

"It will be a long process, it will be a hard one, one that I know I'm going to get a few battles over and slack over for sure — but one that I'm willing to face.

"I feel like I'm a great person to at least get the ball rolling. Whether it'll happen while I'm still in sport, I don't know — but it's got to start somewhere."

So could Humphries foreseeably see herself piloting both two-man and four-man sleds in the future?

"I wouldn't go forward with it if I wasn't super passionate about it and didn't see it happening," she said. "It's just whether the federation and everybody else is ready for that to take flight yet. So that's what I've got to do my best to convince people of."

Humphries is still revelling in the golden glow of earning back-to-back Olympic titles with brakeman Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I. The duo capped off their victory with yet another honour: being chosen as Canada's flag bearers for the closing ceremony.

Humphries' mom, Cheryl Simundson, was able to attend the Games as part of the "Thank You, Mom" program spearheaded by Procter & Gamble Co., which sponsors the bobsleigh champion. The program honours the role mothers play in helping children achieve their dreams.

Simundson became emotional recalling the nail-biting two-minute wait to see Americans Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams complete their run following the Canadian team. In the end, Humphries and Moyse eked out a victory by a tenth of a second.

"We knew that it was close. We knew that they had finished their fourth run and that it was possible, that it was up to Elana to take it or lose it," Simundson recalled, as her eyes began to fill with tears.

"It was all about consistency. At that moment, we knew that they had done their best."

Humphries admitted the pressures were greater heading into the Sochi Games, but said she couldn't approach the event any differently than other competitions.

"I try and keep all my races as simple as possible," she said. "I push as hard as I can and I drive that track the very best that I can, and all my energy and focus goes into that.

"If I think about it as the Olympics and your life is built up to this, four years is about this moment it's too much."

As has become customary, the heavily tattooed athlete plans to add new ink in commemoration of her Sochi victory just as she did after Vancouver. She plans to have a design of her newest medal tattooed with art from Sochi blended into one piece.

Despite thriving under the intense spotlight of competition, Humphries admitted carrying Canada's flag with Moyse at the closing ceremony was fraught with a fresh set of jitters. While no one offered any guidance on how to carry the colours, she recalled a tip she received from British flag bearer Lizzy Yarnold that didn't quite work out as planned.

"She said: 'I think you wave it like a figure eight.' So I started doing that as I walked out, and I started hitting other people's flags and I was like: 'This is an epic fail. OK, don't do that. Thanks, Lizzy,'" Humphries recalled, laughing.

Still, the moment in Fisht Stadium was one to remember.

"To know that we had our whole country behind us that just completely supported us and to hear it and to feel it from back home ... it was unbelievable."

Humphries said while her biggest goal now is "just trying to live in the moment," her plan is to compete at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, with hopes of once again piloting to victory — and the top of the podium.

"Of course, if I'm going in, I'm going all in, 100 per cent. It will be sights set on another gold medal.

"I can't do things halfway because I know it's going to be that much harder. I mean, two is hard, but three, it's really unbelievable, and again, never been done."

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