World Cup Win for Upperton

Globe and Mail Update
December 12, 2008 at 1:50 PM EST

IGLS, Austria — Helen Upperton of Calgary rebounded from a disappointment last week to pilot the Canada 1 sled down the short ice chute at Igls, Austria to Canada\'s second World Cup bobsleigh victory of the season and the fifth of Upperton\'s driving career.

This time, the 29-year-old Upperton had veteran Olympic teammate Heather Moyse on her brakes .

Calgary\'s Upperton and Moyse, of Summerside, PE.I., stormed to the fastest runs in both heats on one of the World Cup circuit\'s shortest chutes to climb to gain the top of the podium in a cumulative one minute 49.07 seconds. Their start times were 54.61 and 54.46 seconds.

“I was pretty good in training all week and I thought I would be in the mix today,” said 29-year-old Upperton after winning her fifth World Cup race in her sixth season as the pilot of Canada 1.
Helen Upperton (right) and Heather Moyse push their sled at the start of their first run of the World Cup bobsled event Friday.

Helen Upperton (right) and Heather Moyse push their sled at the start of their first run of the World Cup bobsled event Friday. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters Photo)
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“Igls is always a close race because it is a short track which makes the start so important.”

Upperton has two of the world\'s top brakewomen – Heather Moyse and Jenny Ciochetti – alternating on the brakes in her sleigh. They continue to post some of the fastest start times each week. Upperton reunited with Moyse to win their first World Cup gold medal together since the Olympic year.

Their history of excellence just make the quandary facing Upperton tougher. One of her devoted crew will sit on the sidelines come the Olympics in 2010.

“The spare [brakeman] is so important to what you want to accomplish,” Upperton said in an interview before the European tour. “What\'s not fair is that when a hockey team wins an Olympic medal, the players who don\'t get on the ice in the final still get a medal… not so for the spare in bobsleigh; she gets nothing… and you need that person.

“Without the spare we wouldn\'t be able to accomplish what we accomplish; move around a 200-kg sled; we couldn\'t do the volume of work that helps me drive to know the courses… “I think they trust me. They know we have to get down the track as fast as possible. But they know there can be only one of them in the end. The coaches try to take the pressure of the decision off me, but you know that they [the women on the brakes] know it comes down to me and who I feel can push the sled and win with me.

“I know the time is coming when one is told she\'s going to the Olympics and one is told ‘thanks for all the training and hard work\'.”

“Canada has such a strong group of girls pushing that it doesn\'t matter who is in our sled,” said Upperton told reporters in Igls.

“Not only are they incredible athletes, but they are all great people and wonderful teammates so it is a non-issue as to who is competing each week because we all want to win together.”

While Upperton won gold in the season-opener in Winterberg, Germany with Edmonton\'s Ciochetti, the gold medal on Friday was a sweet return to the Canada 1 sled for the 30-year-old Moyse, who has been battling a shoulder injury over the last year.

“Coming back with a gold medal is definitely a mental relief for me,” said Moyse, who finished fourth with Upperton at the 2006 Olympics, and is also an all-star rugby player on Canada\'s World Cup team.

“To know we were strong at the starts, with the second and third-fastest times, and to see that Helen and I still have chemistry together was very important for me today because it has been such a frustrating injury. The starts were good and Helen drove like a champion.”

The Canadian duo were joined on the podium by Shuana Rohbuck and Valerie Fleming, of the United States, who finished second at 1:49.21, while two-time Olympic medallist, Sandra Kiriasis teamed up with Romy Logsch to finish third in the Germany 1 sled at 1:49.23.

Two other Canadian sleds also hit the start line in Austria. Calgary\'s Kaillie Humphries and Shelley-Ann Brown, of Pickering, Ont., drove the Canada 2 sled to a seventh-place finish at 1:49.80, while Lisa Szabon, of Nanton, Alta., and Amanda Moreley, of Surrey, B.C., finished 13th (1:50.90).

The Canadian women get back on the start line next week in Cesana, Italy. While Upperton narrowly missed the Olympic podium in 2006 with Moyse on that technical track, she did slide to gold in Cesana last year on the World Cup with Ciochetti in her sled.