Melissa Lotholz 1st Canadian to win Monobob World Series medal, earning bronze

·5 min read

Melissa Lotholz took advantage of a chance to race in monobob and etched her name in the record books with a podium finish on Saturday in Igls, Austria.

The native of Barrhead, Alta., became the first Canadian to earn a Monobob World Series medal, posting a two-run time of one minute 51.22 seconds for bronze on the 14-corner track.

"It's pretty overwhelming to think about it that way [making history], the 28-year-old told Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. "It really hasn't sunk in yet, but I think it is so cool to have this opportunity to race monobobs.

"To have two consistent starts and runs today shows everything is coming together. I'm very proud of the process and I am having so much fun which is so important."

WATCH | Lotholz reaches monobob podium in 3rd:

In monobob, a lone woman pushes and drives a standardized sled that is the same as her competitors' in a test of driving skills.

Lotholz, fresh off a fifth-place performance in her Monobob World Series debut a week ago in Königssee, Germany, was a model of consistency in her second trip to the World Cup start line for the new race discipline that will make its Olympic debut in 2022.

The former world-class brakeman exploded off the start block in a time of 5.87 in both heats and clocked the third-fastest times in both runs on the relatively flat 1,478-metre track.

"As you develop as a pilot, consistency is what you zone in on more and more. When you're learning you have one good run and one horrible one," said Lotholz. "Today, to be able to improve on that second run [in medal position] speaks to where my development is."

No stranger to the World Cup podium, Lotholz first made her mark on the elite international bobsleigh circuit while providing the force behind Kaillie Humphries' sled. The duo celebrated multiple World Cup and world championship medals together.

Humphries sits out Saturday

A powerful brakeman, Lotholz went on to push her University of Alberta varsity track and field teammate, Christine de Bruin, to a seventh-place finish at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"I think [Saturday's result] also speaks to the mental training and preparation I have had as a brakeman," Lotholz said. "Sitting in that position after the first run didn't scare me today. I love the process. So much of it in monobob is like a brakeman. I want to crush it at the start and then just tell myself to take the corners as they come."

Humphries, who now races for the United States, won both monobob races she's entered this season. She sat out Saturday's competition to prepare for next week's world championship in Germany, but is scheduled to compete in the women's World Cup season finale Sunday with brakewoman Lolo Jones.

Lotholz's teammate, Cynthia Appiah of Toronto, posted a career-best fourth-place finish in 1:51.22.

They've had a healthy competition since entering the sport as brakemen after the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and now as pilots. Appiah, who switched to the driver's seat with Lotholz after the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea, has also been steady in her development as a pilot and racing monobobs.

Earlier this month, the 30-year-old finished second to Lotholz at the Europe Cup Monobob race in Igls.

"It has been so fun to be developing as a pilot with her," said Lotholz of Appiah. "We look at each other with this confidence we are going to dominate at the start and encourage each other to keep it going down the track."

Edmonton's Alysia Rissling was solid in her World Series debut, clocking 1:51.78 on Saturday to put the 32-year-old in a tie for sixth.

"As much as this is an individual sport, we have a great team camaraderie throughout the entire program and cheer each other on. It is such a treat to have Rizz [Rissling] on Tour with us this year," said Lotholz. "Coming from a team sport background she is so willing to help and is a huge resource for us developing pilots."

Australia's Breeana Walker won Saturday in 1:50.84, followed by American Elana Meyers Taylor in 1:51.07.

11th win in 12 races this season

In other action, Germany's Francesco Friedrich is the World Cup two-man bobsled champion again.

Friedrich clinched his fourth consecutive two-man title Saturday with his 11th win in 12 races this season. He teamed with Alexander Schuller for an easy victory, beating the Latvian sled of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis by nearly three-quarters of a second in Igls, Austria.

WATCH | Friedrich clocks 1:43.08 in 11th victory of season:

Friedrich clocked one minute 43.08 seconds, beating Kibermanis, who finished in 1:43.80. Russia's Rostislav Gaitiukevich got his first World Cup medal, placing third with Mikhail Mordasov in 1:43.90.

Calgary's Chris Spring and Ottawa's Mike Evelyn finished 11th in 1:44.46 while Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., experienced a muscle cramp in warmup and chose not to race.

Both squads are expected to compete Sunday in the final World Cup four-man event of the season.