In her golden moment on the medal podium in Beijing, when the American flag was raised, Kaillie Humphries said a few Canadian team executives turned their backs on her.

Humphries had just become the first woman in history to win Olympic gold medals for two different countries. After four years of living in limbo which saw her receive American citizenship which even allowed her to compete for the United States less than two months earlier, she performed with “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

The 36-year-old said it was a moment of pure joy and triumph, not of turning her back on a country that in some ways had turned her back.

“I haven’t given up on being Canadian. I have dual citizenship,” Humphries said of Carlsbad, Calif., where she lives with her husband Travis Armbruster, a former American bobsledder. “I love Canada. But I also love the United States. We’re not a women’s hockey game when it comes to my life and my career. It’s not about each other, l ‘one is not better or worse.’

“For me, winning was a huge part of being able to celebrate with people who believed in me when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself and was going through one of the toughest times of my life.”

Her fight to regain the top step of the podium for a new team in the midst of an ugly legal battle with Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton will be chronicled in a documentary “Uphill Slide: The Kaillie Humphries Story”, which will be released later this year or at the beginning of 2023.

“We think it’s really important for Kaillie to be able to tell her story,” said Scott Moore, CEO of production company The Good Karma Company. “There was a story that clearly turns out to be potentially the wrong story.

“I think there were a lot of people who thought Kaillie was the villain in the story…not only is there some clarification needed to this story, and for her side of the story to come out, but it’s as important to empowering athletes, to empowering women as she has a voice.”

Four years after Humphries was the lone voice for change, some 90 bobsleigh and skeleton athletes are calling for the resignation of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s interim CEO Sarah Storey and its high performance director Chris Le Bihan – who, according to Humphries, became their backs at the medal ceremony in Beijing.

Athletes are angry at what they call a toxic culture at BCS, with issues of safety, transparency and governance. BCS has offered mediation, but they argue it’s a “band-aid solution.”

Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge told the Toronto Star on Tuesday that she had ordered a financial audit of BCS and praised the athletes for speaking out.

“Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton respects Minister St-Onge’s request for a financial compliance audit of the organization,” BCS said in a statement. “We will fully respect and cooperate with this request as we have done in the past…

“It is also important to note that in the 2021 Sport Canada Report Card issued to Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, Sport Canada assessed Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton’s financial strategy and control and received a rating of 5 out of 5.”

Humphries became an outcast and while a few Canadian athletes supported her, they only did so behind the scenes.

“Does it hurt? Yes. I wish more could have been a little brave, but I get it,” she said.

She takes “some credit” for the current chorus of voices speaking out against BCS.

“If I hadn’t stood up, I don’t think they would either,” she said.

Humphries raced to gold in Beijing in the monobob, a new Olympic event added after Humphries and American Elana Meyers Taylor fiercely defended the inclusion of a second race for women.

It was Humphries’ third Olympic title.

But after the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, his mental and physical health deteriorated following accusations of harassment against coach Todd Hays. The complaint also cited Storey and Le Bihan, for their lack of support.

She suffered from rashes. Just thinking about sports caused panic attacks.

“I didn’t recognize myself…I wasn’t motivated to leave the house,” she said.

There were times when she wondered if it would be easier to just return to the Canadian team.

“But I thought, can I even do that? And the answer every time was no. Physically, am I going to get hurt? Mentally, am I going to get to the point where I “Have suicidal thoughts? I’m already depressed, and I knew that every path to Team Canada was very negative in this current environment, with this leadership.”

Mental health issues, Humphries pointed out, are a “valid fear” in board sports.

“I have someone else’s life in my hands,” she added. “And if you’re not all there in our sport, you can get in there and not only kill yourself but other people.”

Humphries’ battle with BCS is ongoing. In 2021, the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada ordered a new investigation after deciding the first was “neither thorough nor reasonable”.

Regardless of the outcome, Humphries said she couldn’t be hurt anymore by the Canadian program. She is grateful to the American team who supported her although there is no guarantee that she will even be able to compete in Beijing, nor any guarantee that she will still be four years from now for the 2026 Games – although let that be his plan.

“The one thing that’s consistent about Kaillie is that she’s a fighter,” said Humphries marketing agent Russell Reimer, president of Manifesto Sport Management. “That’s the source of his power, and I would even say his superpower.”

“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to have lasting success as long as she did in the brutality of bobsledding. It’s remarkable. If you don’t have that deep passion , you just can’t sustain yourself.”

Humphries expects there will still be battles as she has big goals. One of them is a prize money for the monobob on the international circuit (there is currently none).

But she said she was a braver, stronger woman for her fight with BCS, and hopes the documentary will help people understand her decision to compete for the United States, and why it was so triumphant to ride. on the podium, wearing the stars and stripes.

She also hopes it gives voice to other athletes.

“Maybe it’s a bit of a survival guide, maybe it’s a bit of a step-by-step,” she said. “So also why I want to do this is for an empowerment piece for others.

Moore and Vinay Virmani, co-founder of The Good Karma Company, opted for the scripted rights to a movie.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 23, 2022.


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