Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kaillie Humphries (nee Simundson), Olympic athlete and Gold medal winner at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Kaillie, age 24, competed in the Bobsleigh, Women’s Two as Pilot sliding with Heather Moyse, Brakeman. (Fellow Canadians, Shelley-Ann Brown and Helen Upperton won the silver medal). This was the first-time that Canadians won two medals in one event.
I asked Kaillie: “When did your Olympic Dream begin?” Without hesitation she replied: “When I was seven years old, Mark Tewksbury (a family friend) won Olympic Gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games. It was then I decided I wanted that, too!”
Kaillie was into Alpine Ski Racing from 1994 until 2002. At age 17, she decided to switch to Bobsled and took on the Pilot position. An accident left her with an injury, so she moved to Brakeman for three years. After the Turin Games in 2006, she moved back to Pilot.
During this time her team competed in Canada, the US and Europe, winning or placing in several races including first in Women’s Two at the 2009 World Cup in Altenberg, Germany. Kaillie gives much credit for her success to her teammates, and, especially to Pierre Lueders, who shared his track notes and equipment with her and sold his bobsled to Kaillie with a generous discount.
When I asked Kaillie: “Which Olympic moment was the most memorable?” she replied: “Not just one moment, but many moments stand out: the moment at the end of the winning race… scanning the faces of the coaches, looking for an expression of triumph, or a hand held up with one finger (for 1st place), two fingers (for 2nd place), the moment you realize you won, the flower and Gold medal presentation, hearing the national anthem – they were all memorable and fantastic!”
As the interview continued I was curious to know: “How do you ever match the high of winning Gold?” Kaillie responds: “You don’t stop doing what you love because you won Gold or had amazing moments; you want to stay up there… I want to defend my title in Sochi in 2014… nothing will ever match, but you can always try to have great moments in new situations.”
Kaillie has close ties with her family who all live in the Calgary area. Her parents, Ray and Cheryl Simundson and sisters, Jordan and Shelby live in a small community S.W. of the city. Her husband, Dan, is a former bobsledder for Great Britain and member of a Canadian four-man bobsled team piloted by Lyndon Rush. Kaillie talked about her family and the special role they have played in her life.
“My parents have been instrumental in getting me where I am.” Kaillie mentions the huge financial commitment as well as the incredible amount of time involved in their taking her to practices and races.
When Kaillie was twelve years old she made a deal with her parents; if she made the National team, she would get a tattoo. Years later, Kaillie made the National team in Bobsleigh. As a celebration of her achievement, Kaillie, both parents, and one of two sisters got tattoos.
The other sister, too young for a tattoo, chose a naval piercing instead. While family members chose more traditional tattoos, Kaillie’s was the most spectacular, with a full leg design of a bobsled bursting through a Maple Leaf, on a blue ribbon track continuing down her left leg to her foot.
A special phrase adorns the ankle area, “Because you loved me” (written in Icelandic). Kaillie chose this phrase as a memorial to her grandparents. “The phrase was from my maternal grandmother (Ann Itterman)… something special between her and me. I put it into Icelandic for my paternal grandfather (Ronald Martin Simundson).
Both of my grandparents (Ann & Ronald) passed away in 2007, so it was appropriate to incorporate both sides into one tattoo. It has since grown to include five stars that represent people who were important to me who have passed away. My family came first, and because of them, the idea for the tattoo.”
Before the interview ended, Kaillie shared some of her Icelandic background with me. Her Father, Ray Simundson of Calgary, is the grandson of Thorfinnur Marteinn Benediktsson, also known as - Martin Simundson, (born in Reykjavík in 1915) and Lucille O’Sullivan (born in Oregon in 1917).
Martin’s parents were Benedikt Sæmundsson (born at Írafell in Kjós, Iceland in 1884) and Sigríður Runólfsdóttir (born in Eyrarbakki, Iceland in 1889). Thorfinnur came with his father and siblings to Canada in 1925 aboard the passenger ship Marloch. Sigríður and two children came to Canada later the same year aboard the passenger ship Montnairn.