By Sarah Seeley
March 6, 2014
The final heat of the two-woman bobsleigh event was about to begin in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Canadian brakeman Heather Moyse sat nervously in the dressing room with her partner Kaillie Humphries.
They knew they were in second place and although they usually didn’t focus on their competitors’ times, curiosity overwhelmed them.
“I want to know the time,” said Humphries.
But Moyse wouldn’t tell her the time of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams of the United States, who sat in first place.
“No, you don’t. You don’t need to know the time. All you need to know is that we’ve closed the gap and that it’s possible. We can do this.”
Moyse and Humphries have felt the pressure before. In 2010, the pair won a gold medal in Vancouver. But on their home soil, they were ahead of the pack. In Sochi, they were 11 hundredths of a second behind the Americans.
“The Americans thought they had it in the bag and we used that to our advantage,” said Moyse.
Moyse and Humphries had a slow start, but as they flew down the track, Moyse could tell they were having a clean run. In her head, she encouraged Humphries as they rounded every corner.
“Good job, Kaillie. Nice, nice. Good corner,” Moyse thought.
Humphries and Moyse posted a time of 3:50.61, which put them temporarily on top. After their run, they sat on the bench to watch Meyers and Williams’s run in hopes their flawless performance would put enough pressure on the Americans to win a gold medal.
The two women, and all of North America, held their breath.
Meyers and Williams made crucial mistakes only seconds into their run. They banged into walls and skidded on the straightaways, costing them precious seconds.
“Oh my gosh, they’re screwing up,” thought Moyse.
Moyse and Humphries watched the clock as the Americans’ lead slipped away.
“Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. This can’t be happening,” thought Moyse.
The Americans posted a time of 3:50.71. Moyse and Humphries looked up at the clock and realized they had won the gold medal.
They screamed, hugged each other while jumping up and down. Then they jumped into the stands to join their families.
“Kaillie and I aren’t really screamers when we win races. But because we were coming from behind, there was no thinking. It was pure reaction,” Moyse said in an interview.
Moyse’s parents and sister were in the stands watching her compete. They have been her biggest supporters in her three Olympics.
“These moments are rare and it’s so special to spend it with those who know so intimately everything you’ve gone through to get there,” Moyse said.
Moyse and Humphries stood on the podium and accepted their gold medals as they soaked up the cheers from Canadian fans. They became the first female bobsledders in Olympic history to repeat as gold medalists.
Several days later, the Canadian Olympic Committee approached Moyse and Humphries and asked them to be the flag bearers at the closing ceremonies.
“It’s an internalized humbling feeling. I thought, ‘Wow they’ve chosen us to represent the country.”
The closing ceremony was a different experience than the opening ceremony. The flag bearers walk out together before the athletes walk into the arena, said Moyse.
“It was neat to be in the tunnel with different countries carrying their flags and seeing all the attire from the different nations.”
After the Games, Moyse returned to her hometown of Summerside, P.E.I. and Islanders rolled out the red carpet when she arrived. P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz she would receive the Order of P.E.I. Moyse said she was stunned and honoured to receive the highest recognition an Islander can get.
“To me it’s extremely emotional and it floors me to know that people think that I have represented this Island so well that I would be deserving of such an award.”
There was a controversy surrounding the award because Ghiz promised it to her without submitting a nomination. Regardless of the process, it is an honour to be considered for the award, said Moyse.
“The way I grew up, it’s the thought that counts. So regardless of a tangible object in my hand, whether I get it or not, for me it will always be the thought that stays with me.”
The future is uncertain for Moyse. She doesn’t know if she will compete in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea or play rugby in the World Cup next year.
“Right now I’m just going to enjoy this gold medal and my goal for this summer is to do as many events as I can so I can share this gold medal with Canadians from coast to coast.”