SOCHI, Russia – The amazing ride for Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse didn’t end at the Sanki Sliding Center.
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Gold medalists Kaillie Humphries (L) and Heather Moyse of Canada team 1 celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Women's Bobsleigh on day 13 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at at Medals Plaza on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Canada’s Olympic bobsled champions received one of the Games’ highest honours, chosen to carry Canada’s flag into Sunday’s closing ceremonies.
“Wow. It’s truly an honour to represent what our Canadian athletes are all about,” Moyse said. “If we look back to the Canadian team’s performance back in Vancouver (in 2010) we can see that a new culture of winning has truly emerged.
“The fight that Kaillie and I demonstrated here reflects the fight of all of our Canadian athletes. We are strong. We are winter. We have the strength of a nation behind us. We were raised on ice and in snow.
“And as we said in our note to the Canadian hockey team, we also fight to the bitter end.”
Only twice before has Canada had two people share flag duties: pairs figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2002, and rowers Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle in 1996.
Women’s hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser carried the flag into the opening ceremonies in Sochi.
Humphries, from Calgary, and Moyse, from Summerside, P.E.I., displayed steely nerves in their come-from-behind victory. The Canada 1 sled had a gap of 11-100ths of a second to close entering the final run.
Moyse delivered with a strong push at the start, then Humphries took over from there.
In the end the USA-1 sled came up short on its final run, giving Canada the win by a tenth of a second.
“We were able to show the world that we’re fierce, we’re proud, we’re determined, we’re not going to settle for anything less than being the very best, and we’re going to do it in our own way,” Humphries said.
“Heather and I in our race. . . neither of us gave up and we knew we had a nation behind us, pushing us, and not giving up either, and that gave us the strength to really go all in and never let up.”
Humphries and Moyse were underdogs when they won at the Vancouver Games four years ago but were favourites this time around.
The Canadians had at least silver locked up after their final run at the Sanki Sliding Center, and then had a nervous two-minute wait in the finish area while Americans Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams completed their run.
The pressure seemed to get to the Americans, who came up one-10th of a second short with a wobbly run, meaning Canada’s women were golden once again.
Humphries and Moyse received the flag news very early Sunday morning. They’d been at the bobsled track late watching the Canadian men race. When the 28-year-old Humphries got the call from Canadian chef de mission Steve Podborski, she thought she’d pocket-dialled him.
“He was like ‘No, I called you,’” Humphries said. “To get that phone call to be told that you get to walk into a ceremonies with your countrymen behind you, your teammates, your family, and to know that you’ve been chosen as one to represent. . . goes beyond just words.”
As the women pointed out, they represent Canada almost from coast to coast.
After the Vancouver Games, there were references about the two being meat and potatoes — Alberta beef and P.E.I. potatoes.
“That steak and potatoes, that gold-medal meal,” Humphries said. “We tie in everywhere from coast to coast, and it’s not just (an honour) to represent our country, but to represent the athletes who are here, the best of the best who already represent our country so well.”
Podborski said the bobsledders embody the values the Canadian Olympic team set for the Sochi Games — stoked, proud, inspired, fierce and unstoppable.
“By defending their Olympic championship in a four-run come-from-behind battle that was clinched in literally the last few seconds, the last few metres,” he said.
The Canadian Olympic Committee had “an embarrassment of riches,” to choose from as well, he added.
Among other likely candidates: women’s and men’s curling champions Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs, moguls champion Alex Bilodeau, and sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe sisters, gold and silver medallists in women’s moguls.
Hours before they were to march into Fisht Olympic stadium, Humphries was hoping to control her nerves while Moyse was worried about crying.
“I’m so nervous and so excited for it and I was not even close to this nervous competing by any means,” Humphries said, laughing.
“For me the nerves will probably be to try to get through it without sobbing,” Moyse added. “It’s an extremely emotional feeling, so if I get through it without crying, that will be a huge step.”