CESANA, Ita. — Helen Upperton has finally solved the track that has given her so much angst in the past.
In the process, the Calgary bobsled pilot also earned a first World Cup gold medal for brakeman Shelly-Ann Brown.
Upperton and Brown teamed up Saturday for their best performances of the season to win the final World Cup stop of the season.
The victory was Upperton’s second World Cup gold medal in Cesana. She also finished a heart-breaking fourth place on the Italian track at the 2006 Olympics and at last year’s World Cup stop.
“I am happy for Shelley. She won the push competition earlier this week, and this could be her final World Cup so it was great for her to get a win,” said Upperton.
“This is such a fun track to slide on. The atmosphere here is great and I’m pretty happy because I now have the start record here with (Heather) Moyse, and the track record with (Shelley-Ann) Brown.”
Frustrated by results this season that have been good, but not excellent, Calgary’s Upperton made a courageous decision to take a break from her medal-winning sled “Fernando” at the beginning of the week in hopes of finding more speed down the track.
But after dating a new sled in training, Calgary’s Upperton gave Fernando another shot and the love affair that has regularly escorted Upperton to the winner’s circle throughout her career, was quickly rekindled as the Canadian trio set a new record on the technical Cesana track at 56.99 in their first run en route to posting a two-run time of one minute, 54.21 seconds (1:54.21).
“We have such high expectations as a team, and the results haven’t been as great as we wanted so I was a little adventurous in training and tried a new sled,” said the 31-year-old Upperton, who now has 16 World Cup medals and five victories in her illustrious career.
“The team was joking that ‘Fernando’ would be jealous that I was cheating on him. It was a fun test, but the other sled just didn’t work, so I went back to Fernando for the race.”
It was the third medal of the season for Upperton and Brown, of Pickering, Ont. The two Canucks also finished third at both the Calgary and Lake Placid World Cup stops.
I obviously didn’t get much training runs in the sled, but just figured it is the last World Cup of the season, and gave it everything I had,” added Upperton.
“I was waiting for that race all year. I felt I had it, but the results just weren’t there.”
The Canadians were joined on the podium by Esme Kamphuis and Judith Vis, of the Netherlands, who slid to their first World Cup podium in the silver-medal spot at 1:54.50. Germany’s Sandra Kiriasis and Stephanie Schneider were third at 1:54.52.
Canada’s Olympic gold-medalists, Kaillie Humphries of Calgary, and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., finished in fifth spot at 1:54.66. The solid finish placed Humphries and the Canada 1 sled into third spot in the overall World Cup standings.
Meanwhile, Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask., made a charge for the podium in the men’s two-man race. Rush and Edmonton-based teammate Neville Wright bolted up the leaderboard after a difficult opening run where they were eighth to clock the second-fastest time of the final run, and finish fourth at 1:51.24.
Italy’s Simone Bertazzo and Matteo Torchio won the men’s race with a time of 1:50.96. Switzerland’s Beat Hefti and Thomas Lamparter were second at 1:51.10, while Germany’s Thomas Florschuetz and Kevin Kuske won the bronze medal with a time of 1:51.11.
Calgarians Chris Spring and Justin Wilkinson teamed up in the Canada 2 sled to finish 17th at 1:52.60.
The World Cup wraps up on Sunday in Cesana, Italy with the men’s four-man bobsleigh race.