WHISTLER, B.C. — Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse were an unstoppable force Tuesday, setting, then breaking, track and start records to lead after two heats in women’s bobsled at the Vancouver Olympics.
The duo in the Canada 1 sled were 13-one-hundredths of a second up on Erin Pac of the United States, and four-tenths ahead of German Cathleen Martini in action at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Canadians Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown — in the Canada 2 sled — were fourth, 42-one-hundredths of a second off the pace.
Humphries, however, said she needs to improve.
“My pilot says I should try and drive the sled more like a Ferrari and less like a John Deere tractor,” said the 24-year-old Calgarian, driving in her first Olympics.
“The race isn’t over yet. I can’t be all excited. There were some mistakes made. I’ll try not to make them tomorrow.”
Humphries and brakeman Moyse, of Summerside, P.E.I., set a track record in the first heat by zipping through the 16-turn circuit in 53.19 seconds, at a speed of 146.9 kilometres an hour. In the next heat, they destroyed that mark by crossing the finish line 18-one-hundredths of a second faster.
They set multiple start time records on the World Cup this season and continued that Tuesday. Their first start was a record 5.12 seconds. The next heat, they were 5.11.
Moyse said their concentration in training is paying off.
“I have no idea where other people are ranked, and that’s something Kaillie and I have been focusing on — ourselves as opposed to what other people are doing,” said the 31-year-old, who’s also an elite level rugby player.
Moyse began driving full-time with Humphries this season. She finished fourth in the Turin Olympic Games in 2006, driving with Upperton. They missed the podium by just five one-hundredths of a second.
Upperton, 30, and Brown, 29, had a great push time in the first heat but couldn’t keep the speed down the course, finishing fifth. Their push time was third in the second heat, but Upperton, nicknamed the “H-Bomb,” sliced through the ice like a dagger to move up a spot.
She said she skidded too much in the first heat, but cleaned it up in the second.
“The pushes are amazing,” she said. “We’re closer to the field than I have been all year. It just goes to show that Shelley-Ann was ready to go.”
Humphries and Moyse were expected to do well in the Games. They were a model of consistency on the World Cup this season, winning one race and never finishing out of the top six.
But they will have their hands full with Pac. The 29-year-old former heptathlete from Connecticut drives the 1,450-metre track like a demon. She won bronze in the Olympic test event at Whistler last February, and held the start record of 5.17 seconds, until Humphries broke it Tuesday.
She won two bronze medals on the World Cup this season and is ranked sixth.
Pac, her fingernails painted with the Stars and Stripes, has been battling a hamstring injury, but said it didn’t bother her on race day.
“I’m happy to be in there,” she said, adding she found the course “very tricky.”
Martini was second after the first heat, but in the second ran into trouble in the S-turns and curves on the upper part of the course and lost precious time.
The 27-year-old German from Altenberg won five of her seven races on the World Cup this season. She is driving in her first Olympics, but also sliding for the memory of her former brakeman Yvonne Cernota.
Cernota, her best friend, flew out of their sled during a practice run in Koenigssee, Germany in 2004 and died. Martini has said she is driving in the Olympics to fulfil both her dream and Cernota’s.
The surprise of the first two heats was the collapse of Germany’s Sandra Kiriasis.
Kiriasis, the 35-year-old soldier from Dresden, came to Vancouver as the No. 1 ranked slider and the defending gold medal winner from Turin.
But she and brakeman Christin Senkel were done in by poor start times. They were eighth in the first heat and ninth in the second. Kiriasis drove like the wind to keep them fifth and in the medal hunt.
“Bad run, bad run. That’s all I can say,” said Kiriasis.
American Shauna Rohbock was tied with teammate Bree Schaaf for sixth.
Rohbock, the 32-year-old from Orem, Utah, won the Olympic test event in Whistler last year and silver in Turin in 2006. She held the old track record at 53.53 seconds, until Humphries and Moyse made it their own.