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Canada's Kaillie Humphries drives with teammate Heather Hughes in the first heat of the women's bobsled World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. (MIKE GROLL/AP)
Canada's Kaillie Humphries drives with teammate Heather Hughes in the first heat of the women's bobsled World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. (MIKE GROLL/AP)

Sochi

Kaillie Humphries favoured to defend bobsled gold at Sochi Olympics Add to ...

The tattoo bug began as a family pact made when Humphries was 12. Every member of the family — Humphries made them promise — would get a tattoo when she made the national team. She originally meant the Canadian ski team. But when she made the bobsled team five years later, the family made good on the promise.

“The very first training camp she made the team and she came home right away and said ‘Well, I guess we’re all getting tattoos,” Cheryl said. “We were like. . . gasp!”

Humphries got a tattoo of a bobsled going through a Maple Leaf on her thigh, Cheryl got an angel on her left ankle, dad Ray got an armband, and Jordan got a butterfly on the small of her back. Shelby, because she was only 12, got her belly-button pierced, “Because everybody had to have something,” Cheryl said.

The family made a return trip to the tattoo parlour a few months ago, at the request of a television crew who wanted to film the process.

“We weren’t the typical family walking into the tattoo parlour,” Cheryl said, with a laugh. “I had my knitting, and Shelby had seven-week-old Haze.”

This time Ray got an Inukshuk to commemorate the Vancouver Games, Cheryl got three hearts — for her daughters — with angel wings for her parents on her right calf, and the saying “Because you love me.”

“Because that’s what my mom used to say to all of us,” Cheryl said.

Humphries and her sisters had different versions of the same saying.

“Would we all get another (tattoo)?” Cheryl said. “I’m not going to say no, because we love them. When she wins again (in Sochi), we’ll have to go do something. . .”

Humphries body art graces a powerful physique that is built for pushing heavy objects. The five-foot-six, 169-pound athlete can squat 340 pounds all the way to the floor. And she’s been known to push cars — including her own BMW X5 SUV — for workouts, usually because she’s in an isolated location with nothing else handy to push.

But there’s a softer side to Humphries, who calls herself the “biggest girl girl you’ve ever met.”

“Makeup, hair, rainbows and butterflies and nice things,” Humphries said. “I like sweet food. I hate HATE roller-coasters. (She also hates flying). I can do twirly, but that droppy feeling — nope.”

Mom Cheryl said Humphries has this “bad-ass” persona, but “she’s a wonderful combination of both (bad-ass and girly girl).”

“She’s very sensitive, and she likes the girl stuff, the dressing up, and the high heels and the perfumes. I go into her room, and I’m like ‘Oh my God, it smells so good in here.’ She mixes perfumes to create her own scent. We’ve been in elevators before and people — usually it’s a man — will go over and say ‘Boy you smell good.’ She loves all that stuff. Makeup, getting her toenails done, all of that stuff. But then it’s: game face on, and she’s serious.”

Cheryl Simundson spoke with pride about Humphries’ soft heart, and the nine-year-old boy Callum who has inspired her daughter. Callum is battling kidney cancer in Alberta Children’s Hospital, and Humphries, who was in and out of hospital with kidney problems as a child, met with Callum over Christmas.

The tiny patients at Alberta Children’s Hospital wear “beads of courage,” necklaces of brightly coloured beads, each one of which represents a chemotherapy treatment, a blood test or transfusion.

Humphries was given her own red-and-white Olympic-inspired beads to wear in Sochi. She wore them on the medal podium after her recent World Cup victory with Moyse in St. Moritz, Switzerland, that saw the Canadians roar into the lead after finishing well back in 10th after the first run.

She posted a picture on Twitter and wrote “Had my (at)beadsofcourage on 2day.fighting from 10th in run 1,to win overall is for u Callum (at)albertachildren #believe.”

Cheryl said Humphries’s success comes from her inner strength.

“She has this drive inside of her — you raise three children, and we did the same thing for all three and they’re all very powerful and very talented ladies. It’s Kaillie’s ability to put herself in a place where she can block out others, and focus on a task. She’s very goal-oriented, when she sets her mind to something she can achieve it.”

Humphries and Moyse reunited this season with their sights on defending their Olympic title.

“No one in women’s bobsleigh has ever repeated an Olympic title,” Humphries said. “That’s my goal, to go out and be the first one.”

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