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WHISTLER, B.C.—A new generation of Canadian women’s bobsleigh pilots issued an early warning shot they are ready mix it up with the best in the world after storming to the top-two spots on the Women’s Monobob podium in Whistler, B.C. on Friday.

Calgary’s Bianca Ribi made a golden entry onto the World Cup scene, winning her first race as a pilot.

She had good company on the podium. Ribi’s teammate, Cynthia Appiah of Toronto, slid to the silver medal.

“I don’t even believe it,” beamed Ribi. “I was just super locked in and focused on that first run. I was first off the hill. It was my first World Cup and all I kept thinking about is it is just me and the track and to just come out and execute.”

The 26-year-old former elite soccer player did just that, clocking the second-fastest first-run time on the 1,694-metre Whistler Sliding Centre track that snakes down Blackcomb Mountain.  Germany’s Laura Nolte was the only one to top the World Cup rookie in the first of two runs, sliding .01 faster.

“Besides Kaillie Humphries, I probably have the most runs on this track, so I knew that I know it better than the majority of the field,” added Ribi. “I knew as soon as I got to the bottom that I had a very good run, and I knew it was going to be a tough one for people to beat so I wasn’t surprised at the times, and that I was close to the front.”

Ribi posted a combined time of 1:50.89 and waited in the leader’s box to see if the reigning Olympic two-woman champion Nolte could catch her. Nolte crashed near the bottom of her second run and finished seventh.

“I just tried to bring my focus back (on that second run). It is just me and the track. I needed to have a good push. I needed to keep trusting my eyes and hands and execute.  If I did that, I knew that I was going to be competitive, but I definitely didn’t think that it was going to land me in first place,” said Ribi.

Ribi finished 0.27 seconds faster than her Canadian teammate, Cynthia Appiah. The 32-year-old second-year slider captured her fifth monobob podium on the elite circuit, winning the silver medal after posting third-place times in both heats for a total of 1:51.16.

“It is great to have a medal,” said Appiah. “This is not my strongest track, but it does help build that confidence back heading into tomorrow.”

Kaillie Humphries, of the United States, was third at 1:51.18.

It is the second time two Canadian athletes have shared the top-two spots on the World Cup monobob podium. Nearly one year ago, Christine de Bruin (Stony Plain, Alta.) celebrated her first World Cup victory in monobob racing, while Appiah slid to the silver in Altenberg, Germany. De Bruin went on to win the bronze medal in the sport’s Olympic debut at the Beijing Games.

“It is great to show our program is still working,” said Appiah. “These results today show the women’s program is still strong and it will continue to build up from here.”

Later in the afternoon, Taylor Austin teamed up with Shaquille Murray-Lawrence (Scarborough, Ont.) in the lone Canadian sled for the two-man bobsleigh race.

The 32-year-old Austin piloted the Canucks to their top finish on the World Cup, finishing sixth with an overall time of 1:43.02.

“It was really fun today and good to build some confidence and momentum into the season,” said Austin who now calls Calgary home. “If you don’t have the absolute confidence in yourself this track will bite you really quick. You have to be at your best here.”

It was the first full two-man World Cup start for Murray-Lawrence.

“Being the first race of the year, it was good to get back at it and to be here at home because we haven’t been here for a few years,” said Murray-Lawrence, who came to bobsleigh from the CFL. “I think we put two good starts together and Taylor drove well.”

Germany’s Francesco Friedrich and Alexander Schueller won the season-opener with a time of 1:42.22. Brad Hall and Taylor Lawrence, of Great Britain, were second at 1:42.33. Johannes Lochner teamed up with Erec Bruckert to win Germany its second medal of the day, a bronze with a time of 1:42.68.

The two-woman and four-man bobsleigh races will blast off the top of the hill on Saturday at the Whistler Sliding Centre, beginning at 10 a.m. Admission to the Whistler Sliding Centre is free. All races are streamed live on CBC.ca.

WOMEN’S MONOBOB RESULTS:

TWO-MAN BOBSLEIGH RESULTS:   

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Chris Dornan                                                                                                  

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