Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Kaillie Humphries' exercise in chutzpah and hubris

Love her or loathe her, Kaillie Humphries is a larger-than-life character and a genuine Canadian superstar within her rather esoteric winter sport of bobsleigh. She won back-to-back Olympic medals in 2010 and 2014 with brakewoman Heather Moyse (who hardly ever gets a mention, not having  Humphries' star-power and "dominant personality", as I have seen it described) and a bronze in 2018 with another brakewoman, Phylicia George, hanging on her coattails.
She has probably won many other competitions too, over the years, but no-one would know about that unless they were aficionados of this rather obscure sport. Because, as regards bobsleigh, the Olympics is it, the Olympics is (literally) the gold standard. No-one really cares what a bobsleigher does outside of the two or three weeks of the Winter Olympics, once every four years.
And that's important because, as Ms. Humphries continues her high-profile fight against Bobsleigh Canada, one has to be aware that it is Canada (and Bobsleigh Canada in particular) that has made her what she is today. Bobsleigh is not a sport you can practice in your backyard: Ms. Humphries has undenyably benefitted hugely from Canada's bobsleigh infrastructure and coaching. And now she wants to take all that she has become and put it in the services of ... the United States, no less. The opposition, the rivals.
Ms. Humphries recently married an American bobsleigher, hence, presumably, her desire to compete for America and not, say, Switzerland. She would still have to get her US citizenship fast-tracked somehow, and she would still have to qualify for the US team, but she seems confident that that can be achieved (and she is nothing if not confident, perhaps over-confident - she once tried out for the Canadian men's team, although she didn't actually do very well). Bobsleigh Canada says they are happy to continue with her as a Canadian competitor, despite her apparent desire to sever all links, but the atmosphere must now be decidedly frosty.
Ms. Humphries even took Bobsleigh Canada to he courts over all this - the "real" courts, that is, not the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada; that is her style - although the courts have just ruled against her. And she is still continuing with an emotional and mental harassment case against her Canadian coach, which is obviously something that needs to be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately. But it is pretty clear that this is all about her. She wants to win at any price - the national pride that motivates so many other Olympians just doesn't come into it. And she might find that, in a sport like bobsleigh in particular, she needs more than chutzpah and a penchant for self-aggrandisement. As Cathal Kelly points out in the Globe and Mail, no-one likes a turncoat.

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