Meet the Athletes: Kaillie Humphries

Meet the Athletes: Kaillie Humphries
Posted at 10:51 AM, Dec 08, 2021

Kaillie Humphries, a two-time Olympic champion from Canada, switched to representing the United States in 2019 because of abuse and harassment she alleges she faced within Canadian bobsledding. Since joining Team USA, she's won three world titles: the two-woman titles in 2020 and 2021, and the inaugural women's monobob title in 2021.

Her status for the 2022 Winter Olympics was in limbo as she awaited U.S. citizenship — until Dec. 2, 2021, when she finally had her citizenship ceremony in San Diego, California. She won her first race as an American citizen just two days later at the IBSF World Cup stop in Altenberg, Germany.

As part of our preparation for the Winter Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to multiple athletes to learn more about their lives both inside and outside of sports. Here’s what we found out about Humphries.

Kaillie Humphries smiles
Getty Images

How influential were your parents in your athletic career?

My parents were very influential in my athletic career. Growing up in ski racing, my dad would volunteer at my races, as a gate keeper or with timing. He would drive me to and from the mountains every weekend. I was never without opportunity.

My mom was the best cheerleader. She would save a table for us at lunchtime and make sure we were fed and supported. She was hands-on in a different way. The classic mom who picks you up when you fall, loves you no matter what, but is not about to freeze on the side of a mountain. She made all my packed lunches growing up.

When I switched to bobsled at 17 years old, my dad drove me to my very first tryout. He signed off (because I was under 18) and stayed and watched the whole time. He's the quiet support. Very hands-on, but not loud.

My parents bought me my very first bobsled. It cost $40,000 and I had to pay them back over time (took me five years working at Home Depot and a cable company). This sled made a huge difference to my career in the early days, as I was able to advance quickly due to having great equipment. I wasn't good and couldn't get sponsors because I was unknown. The bank of "my parents" believed in my ability from day one.

My parents have come to Europe many times, including watching me win my first two world championships Lake Placid, New York, in 2012 and St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2013).
My mom was chosen as a house mom in 2014 Olympics for P&G. My parents came for the whole Olympics in 2014 to Russia. My parents have been to all my major competitions throughout my career. They have been to all my Olympic performances too. (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018).

My parents were there for me in 2006 Torino, Italy, when I was an alternate for the Olympic team. I didn't race in my first Olympics, but they still came over to Italy as a shoulder to cry on many days. It didn't matter that I wasn't racing, they were proud of me no matter what.

We have rules though, as they do not stand or watch at the start or anywhere I can see them during the race. They are always at the finish line on the fourth and final run though to celebrate (or not).My dad has the Olympic logo emblems tattooed on him from my Olympic journeys -- that's how invested he is in my career. My success is his success.

Tell us about your pets.

Duchess. She is a petite Goldendoodle.

She is my fur baby. My husband and I got her as a couple before we were married. She provides us so much love and support. The best dog ever!

She loves people more than other dogs, but gets along with everyone. She is protective, but also compassionate. She knows when you have had a hard day and will cuddle when you are feeling down. She likes her own space sometimes but travels very well. She is very well-behaved and is always wanting to go wherever we go.

Travis will hold her in his arms and she will sit there like a little teddybear for hours, just watching the world go by.

How was your hometown shaped who you are today?

Canada gave me my start in the sport of bobsleigh. I grew up in a city that had the Olympics from 1988. This was the "Cool Runnings" movie place. Having it in my backyard allowed me the chance to try the sport.

San Diego and Carlsbad have given me my current life. I met my husband while getting a tattoo close by. I moved down after only eight months of knowing him. It has always felt like home here. The city (and surrounding little cities) provided such a welcoming environment. The sun, sand and active lifestyle here are perfect.

I spend months on bobsled tour in the cold, winter, snow and hard weather conditions. I grew up in -40 degree weather. I can handle the cold, however, my body and mind need the sun and warm. Spending time in the summer (when not competing) in a place that is happy is key. Consistent weather, the ability to be outside all day and eat healthy food at so many places, just gives back to me making me happy.

I can train in the summer anywhere as long as I have a gym and space to run, so why not pick such beautiful place to live? It's great for my mind, body and soul. Not many places in the world provide the same beautiful environment. There’s nowhere else I want to live.

Describe a typical training day.

-I wake up at 8 a.m.
-Make coffee and eat breakfast.
-Walk Duchess
-Go to training 9:30 - 1:30 p.m.
-Lunch 1:30 p.m.
-Therapy (three times a week: Chiro, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, oxygen chamber, etc.)  from 2:30-4 p.m.
-Nap 4-4:30 p.m. (if I'm lucky. I try to get one every couple days). This gets skipped if I need to do housework like laundry, dishes, meal prep, groceries, etc.
-4:30-6 p.m. emails and business (anything sport-related, sponsor-related, social media, teammates, planning new technologies, etc.). Sometimes housework or time with friends or family time takes over here.
-6-7:30 p.m. dinner
-8-9:30 p.m. try to chill out or get some quality time with the husband the rest of the night.
-9:30 p.m. prepare for bed.
-10 p.m. bedtime.

How much do you train and sleep?

I try to get eight hours of sleep a night. I train six days a week, anywhere from two to six hours a day, depending on the day and the training block. Sundays are off.

I spend about one hour warming up every day, two hours at the running track sprinting or bounding, getting fast and explosive. Two hours at the gym lifting weights and getting strong and explosive.

When I am able to use the icehouse this replaces sprinting, and I can practice pushing a sled at the start. This is only available when I go for training camps in Lake Placid. It's a brand-new facility that just opened a few months ago. Game changer for us in bobsled.

What’s your favorite workout?

Anything lower body. I love single leg split squats or any variation of squats.

I prefer to lift instead of sprinting. I'm a stronger athlete, but have to work hard on being fast. I love the feeling of being fast though, so at the end of the season when I feel strong and fast, the combination is empowering as an athlete. I can do anything.

I have always had big legs, capable of lifting a lot of weight.

SEE MORE: Kaillie Humphries gets first win since becoming U.S. citizen

What’s the most grueling workout you’ve ever done?

The days that last five to six hours of constant work. When we are building a good base, with many reps and sets in both sprinting and lifting. It drains me mentally and physically.

I also hate doing abs. I know core is important, and we work on it a lot. But just working on abs, it burns so bad and I hate that feeling.

Anything surprising about training for the Olympics?

Exhausting myself as an athlete is actually the most relaxing part of my day.

I stress out a lot when I miss workouts. The mental release I get from pushing my body and getting stronger and faster allows me to remain focused and relaxed about my goals. It's not hard to push myself athletically. The hard days are when you miss a workout due to unforeseen circumstances. I can't help but think about the “what if's.” We have one shot at the Olympics every four years. Each missed session adds up. I want to stand on the start line and not have any regrets, but four years away, with so much happening, it's hard.

I miss a lot of holidays, birthdays, family gatherings.

I'm an athlete but that doesn't mean I'm good at everything. I'm very specialized at this level. I train to be great at bobsled stuff, but if I had to swim or play soccer, I wouldn't be very good. People are always surprised to learn I'm not naturally talented at everything. I think it's what they expect when you say you’re an Olympic champion.

How did you prepare during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I was in Carlsbad, at home with my husband. We had to invest in lifting equipment and turn our garage into an at-home gym.

My husband became my coach, training partner, therapist, sport psychologist, whole family. I wasn't able to go back to Canada to see my family for two whole years. So my husband was my world in sport and in life.

What’s your nutrition plan?

I eat about 2,500 calories a day. I try and get about 160g of protein, 210g of carbs, and 80 grams of fat each day. I work with a nutrition coach (Kelsey Keil) and we make sure that combined with training, my nutrition is keeping me at an ideal weight and energy level to cope with the load and performance.

Go-to indulgence meal: sushi or steak/French fries. Go-to snack: potato chips. Go-to dessert: pie (lemon or strawberry rhubarb or apple) or lemon tarts or bars.

What’s your earliest memory of bobsled?

My earliest memory of seeing my sport is the movie “Cool Runnings.” I watched it as a kid (I still love it as an adult). Never knew that's what I would grow up to do though. Fun fact: that movie was filmed in my hometown in Calgary.

What's your earliest memory of watching the Olympics?

My earliest memory is watching the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. My family had met Mark Tewksbury beforehand. Watching him win gold in the backstroke, the look on his face when he won, that inspired me. I was 7 years old. That is what I wanted. I have been chasing that ever since.

Who’s your most interesting teammate?

Lolo Jones.

She has a long history of being an athlete at the elite level in multiple sports. Most of us are great at one, but she has managed to make an Olympic team in multiple sports.

She has had a long career and has worked her way to the top from nothing. I admire her fight, intensity, perseverance and work ethic. She is so much more than what is shown on tv. As her teammate I have gotten to see another side to her that most do not. She is what you expect, but also not what you expect. She is an open book, holds nothing back, but will be the first to step up and give everything of herself (good and bad). It's honest, no hiding -- a skill many do not have the confidence to showcase to the world on such a grand scale. She works extremely hard, too.

Who’s your Olympic role model?

Very currently, Simone Biles. She chose to step away from competition during the Olympics, because she is more than a medal. Her mental health was worth more to her than any performance. That is a strong woman. I have spoken to my husband about this many times, and being fearful of failing or not going to an Olympics or losing a medal. By Simone showcasing it's OK to not compete, not win, and you are more than just medals -- this was powerful to me as an athlete.

I also use Serena Williams and Billie Jean King as role models. Their dominance on the court, as well as their belief in themselves as strong females, is what I want to emulate as well. They fight for opportunity, equality, high standards, professionalism and fair play.

American bobsledder Kaillie Humphries
USA Today

Describe your tattoos.

I have about 60% of my body tattooed.

I have my parents’ portraits on my right arm. I have a horse and a key that symbolize my sisters. I have roses on my hands to remember to "take the time to smell the roses." My very first tattoo was a Canadian maple leaf and a bobsled. I got it when I was 18 and made the National Team.

I have both my Olympic gold medals tattooed on my shoulder blades. (The Olympic Rings are on the medals). I have the dates I won all my Olympic medals.

I have a laurel wreath on my right Achilles. I have the word "strength" on my right hamstring. I have the word "Love" on my chest.

I have a sternum piece of an "iris" flower.

My left and right arms are complete full sleeves. I have a diamond representing beauty and strength on my left arm. An eye representing focus and the window to the soul. A clock inside the Bramante staircase (the Vatican) representing time in all aspects. Time is something that fascinates me. An old gun that resembles the one my grandfather used to own, symbolizing strength. The gun is on my biceps. There is also a play on words here with it being my "gun show."

I have one on my left shoulder that is a tribute to my late grandfather and uncle who have passed on. The flower is for my grandfather, he grew them in his garden. The jewelry box is for my uncle/godfather, who was my biggest fan. He made me a jewelry box the year before he passed away as a Christmas present. I have the quote "rise and rise again until lambs become lions." tattooedd on my left arm as well.

I have a Native American chief as a female pinup girl on my right side. She symbolizes a boss in the theme that was the 2010 Olympics. I have a guardian angle on my left side for my grandma, who helped raise me as a girl. She has now passed but is forever with me. I have a butterfly on my right ankle symbolizing personal growth. A tiger on my right quad symbolizing willpower, courage and bravery. A crown on my right kneecap with roses that symbolizes being victorious, strong and triumph. The roses symbolize passion, and there are three around my right kneecap. I have a dream catcher on my right lower leg. That one is pretty self-explanatory.

I have the bible verse "Do not fear for I am with you" with a small cross tattooed on my right shin, symbolizing my faith. I have the saying "Because you loved me" tattooed in Icelandic around my left ankle. It was a saying between my grandmother and myself, the Icelandic portion comes from my other grandfathers’ history. They passed within six months of each other in 2006/2007. They were a big part of my growing up.

My left leg is a complete half sleeve with a design that I thought looked badass. It's like a shield of armor. No specific significance, but It makes me feel confident and intense.