SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/GETTY IMAGES

Kaillie Humphries and Lolo Jones paired to win a historic two-woman bobsled world championship on February 6th. For Humphries, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, it was her fourth world championship. For Jones, it was the biggest win in her second-career after she picked up the sport a decade ago. They spoke with Just Women’s Sports about their historic win and what comes next as they prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

First off, congratulations to you both. I read somewhere that Kaillie, you messaged Lolo on Instagram to get her to come back to bobsledding a few years back. Can you both give your side of that story? 

Kaillie: I met Lolo through bobsled years ago going into the Olympic year. I was with Canada, she was with the USA going into 2014. So we had known of each other, had conversations, had chatted, just being in the sports world. And then fast forward to me joining team USA last season. Going into this summer, I had messaged Lolo just to see where she was at. I knew she was training for Tokyo, but with Tokyo being postponed a year, I just wanted to see if she was coming back to bobsleigh. And if that was at all an interest for her.

I had raced with one of her former teammates in Canada. So I’ve had a feeling that pairing my steering with her speed could be a really good combination. I always admired Lolo for her athleticism and just being a really strong, motivational, powerful athlete. And so I messaged her and we started talking about her coming back, what that would look like. And so I’m very grateful that she trusted me and the coaching staff and the team and took that risk and felt safe to come back.

 

Lolo, what was that like from your perspective, getting that message and having those early conversations?

Lolo: It was basically what Kaillie said. We met as competitors. Actually, my job was to make sure that we put the biggest gap on her when she competed for Team Canada, that’s just how good of a driver she is. We were always like, “You have to put the gap on her because she’s such a good driver. Just put as much as you can on her.” My job was to make her have really bad days.

So when she messaged me after crossing over to the USA, honestly, I can only describe it as like Usain Bolt sliding into your DMs and asking you to be on a 4×100 relay race. And that’s essentially what it was like, I almost dropped my phone. I was like, “Is this really happening?” She’s one of the best drivers, not only for Team USA, but in the history of bobsled. So any brakeman would be honored to get in her sled.

But it was by no means easy, we’re making it sound like it was easy, but she recruited me. But that doesn’t mean I was guaranteed to be in a sled. There were levels to this where I had to either prove myself or beat someone or have a good result to actually end up in her sled. But that’s the long short story.

 

And what do you think allowed you to find such quick chemistry?

Kaillie: Personality wise, how we approach our sport is very similar. I think just mentally, the fierceness, the intensity that we bring, the determination — we are very detailed personalities and are always pushing for perfection. And so I think right from the get go, there were certain aspects of Lolo I could see and understand, and it just felt comfortable being around her.

Like she said, there were definitely some obstacles and some hurdles, and we both had to work individually at the beginning of the season. But then once we were able to come together and reach a certain point, I think a lot of it was a feeling of comfort and understanding for one another, a willingness to push for each other, and then just having trust and faith in the other person. You wanted to compete for them. I didn’t want to just win. I wanted to win alongside Lolo.

 

Kaillie — you’re now the only woman to win four world championships. Now that you’ve had some time to process that, what does it mean to you? 

Kaillie: A little bit of relief comes with that from the standpoint of, “I always believed in myself and that I could be one of the best in the sport.” I’ve worked extremely hard to put myself in this scenario. This is my life and everything that I do. So to be amongst some of the best is just a really cool feeling. And it does feel like there’s a payday at the end. It’s not monetary, it’s not something tangible, but just the feeling that it worked.

The plan was there for all those years, all those hard days, all those times away from family, from friends. It definitely is a big relief, but also it’s a super cool feeling. It does provide a lot of confidence to know I can jump in a sled and I am one of the best, I can trust my abilities a little bit more. I think I have more confidence in myself for sure after having won this. I have more confidence in my ability as a driver, as a female, in who I am and what I stand for and what I represent. I feel a lot stronger in my feelings and my faith with that.

 

And Lolo, I know you have a unique story as well. You’re now a world champion in two different sports, and have won those titles across three different decades. 

Lolo: I’m old, thank you. [Laughs]

 

You started competing in bobsledding almost a decade ago. What has kept you motivated throughout these years?

Lolo: I think as an athlete, we kind of get this stigma that we’re washed up, we’re not of value as we get older. So I embrace that. I mean, Kaillie is 35. So it’s kind of cool to achieve these goals at a later stage.

I’m thrilled that I was able to win this championship with Kaillie and over three decades, it just shows the longevity of my career. But what it probably doesn’t show is all the time in between the losses, the nights where I wondered if I should give up. One of my favorite quotes is, “Never tease an old dog because they might just have one bite left in them.”

That’s for anybody going for a dream who feels like they’re washed up or that they don’t have what it takes anymore. I just tell them to keep pushing. Cause that’s what me and Kaillie are doing. And we’re quite successful at it.

You were training for one last Summer Olympics bid, after which you were on an MTV reality show before jumping into Bobsled camp. How were you able to make that transition so quickly and successfully? 

Lolo: Was definitely not quickly. It definitely put Kaillie at a hindrance, for sure. Because of the quick turnover, I’m not at the weight I need to be for bob, so we actually had to put quite a bit of weight in the bob this year. So that means I had to have help pushing it. Now back in Boston, I’ll be able to put on the weight gain so that we don’t have to do that.

 

Kaillie, I understand that you’re still waiting for a citizenship decision which will determine whether you can compete for the US at the Olympics next year. Can you give us an update as to what that timeline looks like?

Kaillie: I cannot give you an update because there is none. My application is in, but unfortunately COVID shut down immigration and the government for a period of time this summer. So we’re still in the process of understanding where I’m at. That’s something that my lawyer is working on right now. So we don’t have an exact timeline. There is no exact date. There is nothing official as of now because there’s still a backlog of stuff. And they’re trying to sort through a whole mess of, like I said, immigration as a whole across the entire country. And so where I fall into that, it’s still pretty unknown at this time. At this point, we’re just waiting for a decision.

 

Assuming it all works out, this will be your first Olympics competing for the US. You’ve obviously competed in the Olympics before and won a fair share of medals. But what would it mean to compete for the US in China?

Kaillie: Well, I think, honestly, it will be a huge honor to represent such a strong nation, such a strong country. Those are huge shoes to step into, and it’s not lost on me. And I’m extremely proud to represent the USA right now, to represent it on the world stage, to know that I feel like I leveled up.

I’m proud to live and represent the United States. It is my home. It is where I live now. I married an American, so this is very much my life. I think just being proud is the biggest thing I can say overall. Now, it will be a first, for sure, but I’m not new to the Olympic world. This world is still the same. So I’m excited for the opportunities, for the chance to potentially bring home medals for the United States in this sport and to show as you know, we’re very strong, proud athletes and females within this sport. And we can do anything we set our mind to.

 

How are you both preparing for 2022 now? 

Lolo: For me, I need to focus on properly gaining weight. And then mentally, I just have to prepare myself, because I’m going to be returning to where my first Olympics was. I competed in the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which everybody kind of knows is where I hit a hurdle, and that cost me the Olympic gold medal.

So I’m going to fight like hell to earn my spot on the team, to go back there and just have redemption. I don’t want to just go and win a medal. I want to go and win a gold medal. Because of what happened, I am just going to work my tail off to make sure I’m in the position to do that.

Kaillie: And the cool part is, Lolo is not going to be alone this time. Not that she was last time, but it’s not going to be just her. We have a very, very strong women team heading to 2022. The team is one of the strongest women bob teams in the world. So we’ll be there to support Lolo. Everybody has their individual goals, myself included, but as a women’s group, as a women’s team, we are extremely strong. And so that’s very motivating for me specifically. I think I definitely want to go, win an Olympic gold medal in 2022. It’s not just showing up and making the team. I lost that in 2018. I was a champion before, but somebody else got it last time. So I want it back. That’s my goal.

 

Was there anything else that you wanted to bring up that I didn’t mention at all?

Lolo: I just hope there are women out there that are just inspired. If they can look at Kaillie and just see her dominance and see how she was able to break history and just be really spot on at the prime of her career — that’s incredible. And I hope it inspires women to just keep reaching for new levels. And then I hope that they see my story and know that through it all, through the ups and the downs, they just need to keep pressing. Because both of us have gone through a lot of hardships and I know it may seem easy, but it wasn’t. So just keep fighting.

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