KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — She’s covered in tattoos, each of their details, colours and designs representing a person or event that has shaped Kaillie Humphries’ life.
A self-portrait on skin, her body of work.
The ink — one of her tats flows from the waist to her toe — accentuates her muscular physique and gives those who don’t know Humphries the idea that she’s some Canadian biker chick with a bad attitude.
“Please,” says her brakeman, Heather Moyse. “All of those tattoos symbolize the softer side of Kaillie. There’s not one skull on there.”
With a heart as golden as the medal she won four years ago in Vancouver, Humphries has a chance to make her own permanent mark in the Olympic record books as the first woman to win consecutive titles in two-man bobsled. She begins the quest Tuesday, when women’s bobsled begins two days of competition on the Sanki Sliding Center track.
If the World Cup season and training runs the past few days are any indication, Humphries and USA-1 driver Elana Meyers will duke it for the top spot. It’s been that way for months.
Humphries won the World Cup title over Meyers of Douglasville, Ga., by one point, adding fuel to a friendly rivalry between two women who have become good friends.
Ask Meyers about Humphries, and before saying one word, she smiles.
“She’s one of the people I admire most in this sport,” Meyers said following a training run with brakeman Lauryn Williams of Rochester, Pa. “She genuinely does not care what other people think about her. It’s awesome. She goes out there and is uniquely herself every single time, every single run.”
A former push athlete, Humphries is intense and driven — all the great ones are. She never settles, never walks away from anything without feeling satisfied. If it’s a race, then by gosh, it’s hers to win.
Humphries and Meyers trained together last summer, the pair even sharing the same room for a few days. Humphries pushed Meyers and Meyers pushed back. Now, they’ll go at it again, this time with their sport’s biggest prize up for grabs.
The Canadian and the American, head to head. May the best woman win.
“Every athlete is going to have a rival,” Humphries said. “Elana and I knew that going into this year, which is part of why we decided to train together. She knows, as well as I do, we’re really the only two people who can push each other to continuously get better. It was not an easy decision, and it’s not one most people would make, training with your No. 1 competitor.”
Yes, their time together made them stronger athletes, better drivers. But it also gave each an appreciation of the other, pulling them as close as teammates, just under different flags.
“We have become really good friends,” Humphries said.
“Both her and I are very similar in mannerisms and our abilities to put business on one side and personal stuff in the other. I respect that about her and I hope she does with me, and I think that’s how we’re able to be competitors and rivals and still be friends.”
Under intense pressure on her home course in 2010, Humphries and Moyse — they once competed for the same spot on Canada’s team with Moyse beating out Humphries — put together four solid runs on Whistler’s treacherous track and delivered Canada a gold medal.
Of course, Humphries commemorated the win with a trip to the tattoo parlour, adding a few more pieces to her artistic epidermal biography.
She got a replica of the gold medal on her back and shoulder, the date of the race on her right arm and a bobsled coming through a maple leaf on her leg.
Those works have company with the portraits of her parents on her right arm and a memorial work to her grandparents on her left leg with the words “Because you love me” written in Icelandic, honouring her heritage.
There’ pressure again, but it’s not the same.
Humphries may be more relaxed, which maybe makes her more dangerous. While much of the pre-race focus has been on three fast, BMW-engineered American sleds with track celebrity-turned-sledder Lolo Jones pushing USA-3, experts believe Humphries is the one they’ll have to catch.
She doesn’t disagree.
“It could be my race to win or lose, but it’s anyone’s race to win or lose,” she said. “We don’t go head to head. Once you’re on the track, that’s your time and everybody should look at it that way.”
History awaits her.
And if she makes it, Humphries has already considered a proper tattoo — or two.
“I have some ideas for sure,” she said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen.”