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First European contribution to streak buoys Canadian driver's confidence

VANCOUVER - Europe is no longer a sore point for Kaillie Humphries. The 27-year-old Calgary driver enters Friday's World Cup in La Plagne, France riding a record seven-race win streak.
Canada's Chelsea Valois, left, and Kaillie Humphries display their medals after winning the women's bobsled World Cup event in Whistler, B.C., on Friday November 23, 2012. Europe is no longer a sore point for Humphries. The 27-year-old Calgary bobsled driver enters Friday’s World Cup in La Plagne, France riding a record seven-race win streak.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Europe is no longer a sore point for Kaillie Humphries.

The 27-year-old Calgary driver enters Friday's World Cup in La Plagne, France riding a record seven-race win streak. But until last weekend's win at Winterberg, Germany, the winning run had only comprised victories on North American tracks.

The Winterberg win has given Humphries a new wave of confidence heading into the second half of a season that will only involve races on European ice.

"I definitely feel better about where I'm at now," Humphries said Thursday in an interview from La Plagne.

Although she has made winning look easy since beginning the streak in 2011, her results in Europe were modest. Prior to last weekend, Humphries had finished no better than eighth at Winterberg.

"Winterberg is one of those tracks where I was able to get down, but I was never able to get down fast enough," she said.

Her only two previous wins in Europe came in La Plagne last season and Altenberg, Germany in 2009. But Humphries was not bothered by the difficulty of the European tracks or the challenges of being far away from home.

She attributed the difficulties to limited experience at overseas venues. Humphries started in the sport at age 17, but spent the first four seasons as a brakeman. She noted it takes eight to 10 years for a driver to peak. She is in her seventh season.

"The biggest problem coming in here is, we don't have as much time on these (European) tracks as we do (in North America)," she said.

"I've grown up on (North American) tracks where as on these tracks I don't have as many runs."

Humphries' record streak has bettered the six straight wins posted by Germany's Sandra Kiriasis in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Like Humphries, the German included a world championship among her record rides.

Humphries believes that more success will come as she and new brakeman Chelsea Valois, 25, of Zenon Park, Sask., continue to develop an already strong partnership. Valois, a rookie in the sport, has been in her sled for all of the wins this season.

Last weekend's win in Winterberg came after Humphries and Valois glided to victory in Park City, Utah, Lake Placid and Whistler, B.C. Last season, Humphries won World Cups at Whistler and Calgary and the world championships in Lake Placid.

But Humphries is placing little emphasis on the streak as she focuses on each event. She was not even aware that she had passed Kiriasis for the record in consecutive victories.

"That's not why I go out there," Humphries said. "That's not why I do the sport. I do it because I love it and it's fun. I do it because it's what I'm meant to do."

In addition to more exposure to European tracks, Humphries attributed her success to strong support that she receives from her coaches, technical team and Valois as well as the closeness of the whole team, men and women included.

Canadian coach Tom De-La-Hunty said Humphries' streak is what the team had planned for. She is gaining from the best equipment, a great support team and a good athlete in Valois.

"She's got the ability to win everywhere now," said De-La-Hunty.

He does not think Humphries has struggled in Europe. It's just that everything is clicking into place for her right now.

"I can only see her becoming more successful in the coming years," he said.

Notes: After Christmas, the World Cup circuit returns to Germany for events in Altenberg and Konigssee before moving to Igls, Austria. Then, Humphries will attempt to defend her world title at St. Moritz, Switz., before the World Cup tour concludes with an Olympic test competition in Sochi, Russia one year in advance of the 2014 Winter Games. … Humphries began the streak last season with Jennifer Ciochetti, 28, of Edmonton and Emily Baadsvik, 29, of St. Stephen, N.B., splitting the brakeman duties.

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