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American Kaysha Love wins in World Cup debut as bobsled driver

BMW IBSF WCup 23-24 LaPlagne WMono Kaysha Love USA web.jpg

IBSF/Viesturs Lacis

American Kaysha Love won in her first World Cup bobsled race as a driver, taking a monobob in La Plagne, France, on Saturday.

Love prevailed by 21 hundredths of a second over Swiss Melanie Hasler combining times from two runs. Love was fifth in the first run, then had the fastest second run.

Elana Meyers Taylor, a five-time Olympic medalist, placed fourth in her first international race since the February 2022 Winter Games and November 2022 childbirth. Meyers Taylor had the fastest first run.

The field also included reigning world champion Laura Nolte of Germany, who was fifth. American Kaillie Humphries, who won monobob’s Olympic debut last year, is sitting out this season on pregnancy leave.

A two-woman bobsled race is scheduled for Sunday in La Plagne.

Love made her Olympic debut in 2022 as a push athlete for Humphries, taking seventh in the two-woman event. She then transitioned to pilot, a common move in the sport.

She drove on the lower-level North American Cup last season and finished last or next to last in all six of her races. This season, she won three of her four North American Cups going into her World Cup season debut in La Plagne.

“At this time a year ago, I was getting my (butt) handed to me by, like, everybody,” Love said before the start of the World Cup season, according to The Associated Press. “My goal is to return to the Olympics. And I understand that it just takes more time to develop as a pilot than it does as a brakeman. Ultimately, the goal is just to return to the Games, whether that’s a pilot or as a brakeman. But I would love to see it, God willing, be in the pilot direction.”

She comes from an athletic family: her parents played basketball and volleyball, her sisters are volleyball players and there was no shortage of competition.

Love remembers watching gymnastics on TV as a young kid and turning the family’s couch into vault apparatus; her mother quickly got her into a gymnastics class and that school moved her into the competitive group after just one day.

The Olympic dream was hatched there. Love was a very accomplished gymnast, but realized she wasn’t good enough to make the Olympics in that sport. So, she became a sprinter — even though she hates running — and excelled again, piling up a slew of state records in her native Utah and then racing in college at UNLV.

Bobsled came calling and she was quickly hooked. Love became a push star, her sprinting background making her exactly what’s needed to get a bobsled moving.

She and Humphries were certainly among the gold-medal favorites in Beijing, until Humphries — who won the monobob gold in Beijing a few days earlier — basically blew out her right calf and couldn’t generate the speed she needed at the top of the track. Their seventh-place finish was their worst together.

Two things happened that night near Beijing. Love shed a few tears — and hatched a new plan.

“I think had Beijing maybe gone a little bit more in our favor or gone a little bit different, I don’t know if I can truthfully say that I would have been continuing bobsled and especially continuing in the pilot role as well,” Love said. “So, I’m very grateful for the way that shook out.”

Humphries has fully supported Love’s desire to move from the back seat to the driver’s seat. She even said at the 2022 Games that Love had the potential to be a great driver, and that was before Love had even tried it once.

Seems like Humphries knew what she was talking about. And now Love’s education gets to continue at the World Cup level, all with the 2026 Olympics — and maybe even the 2030 Olympics — in mind.

“I am very much still in a very focused state of not allowing the success and the fun that happened last week to kind of dictate what my season is going to look like,” Love said before La Plagne. “I’m kind of trying to stay focused and just remain calm in the sense of not allowing moments to become bigger. I’m worried about me and my team and having fun and the growth that I’m going to be achieving this season.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.