The Hong Kong Telegraph - US bobsleigh rivals join forces to fight for equality

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US bobsleigh rivals join forces to fight for equality
US bobsleigh rivals join forces to fight for equality

US bobsleigh rivals join forces to fight for equality

They have battled each other as Olympic bobsleigh medallists at four straight Winter Games, but off the ice, Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries are united in their fight for equality in their sport.

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Canadian-born Humphries, 36, stormed to gold for her adopted Team USA, with her new teammate Meyers Taylor taking silver for the Americans, as the women's monobob made its Olympic debut.

Monobob was added to the Beijing Games programme so that for the first time, there are two bobsleigh events for both men and women at a Winter Olympics.

"It’s absolutely huge," said Meyers Taylor, 37, who has won bobsleigh medals at the last three Winter Games.

"To be able to have two opportunities to medal now, that’s a game changer. Now we’re more on par with the men."

The US bobsledders will lock horns again in Friday's two-woman heats while the men race in two and four-man events at these Winter Games.

- 'I'll keep fighting' -

Humphries and Meyers Taylor are both teammates but fierce rivals too - "we wished each other luck, but that's pretty much it," said the latter.

Yet both are passionate advocates for four-woman bobsleigh being added to the Olympic programme for the 2026 Games.

"This is a huge step forward. By no means do I think we're done," said Humphries following her monobob victory at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre.

"I really want to see a four-woman event and I would love to see men do monobob as well. Three events for all genders."

Humphries revealed she has already faced opposition to the idea of four-woman bobsleigh races at the Olympics.

"What I hate to hear is that women aren’t skilled enough or fast enough or strong enough to do it," she said.

"That has literally been told to my face. I’ll keep fighting for that to happen, but it’s not solely up to me.

"I know Elana Meyer Taylor would also absolutely love to see it, but the other women have to want it too."

They both had to fight to compete in Beijing for different reasons.

Humphries has won two Olympic golds and a bronze for Canada in two-woman bobsleigh between 2010 and 2018, but switched to the United States amid allegations she was verbally harassed by staff in the Canadian team.

She was sworn in as a US citizen only last December.

Meyers Taylor only left isolation last Wednesday after testing positive for Covid and was only sure she could race two days before the monobob heats.

The pair were instrumental in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adding monobob to the Beijing Games.

Women's bobsleigh events have a short Olympic history compared to their male counterparts.

The four-man event was included in the first Winter Games in 1924 and two-man bob has been a regular fixture since the 1932 games.

Yet it wasn't until 2002 that women were first granted a two-woman race and there has never been a four-woman bobsleigh event at an Olympics.

Humphries admits it's down to finances as much as convincing the IOC and International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF).

"There are financial aspects, for sure," said Humphries.

"There are four women that are travelling, a bigger sled to have to purchase and ship around, there are different sizes of runners to purchase.

"The other teams on the circuit and the other women have to want it," she added.

"The IBSF need to provide the opportunity and the IOC needs to welcome it as well."

But she was convinced that if the door is opened, teams will push at it: "The next step is creating the opportunity at the Olympics for it and with that, the people will come."