Ahead of Man City-Chelsea showdown, Dahlkemper details life across the pond

Manchester City Women v West Ham United Women - Barclays FA Women's Super League
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Editor’s Note: The FA Women’s Super League returns on Wednesday with a likely title showdown between Manchester City and Chelsea (NBCSN 1pm ET). With three games to go, the two sides are currently separated by two points (Chelsea is in the lead).

Ahead of the potential title decider, NBC Sports’ Joe Price-Wright (Pro Soccer Talk) and Alex Azzi (On Her Turf) caught up with Manchester City defender Abby Dahlkemper. In January, Dahlkemper became the third member of the U.S. women’s national team to sign with City, joining Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis

This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. 

Joe Prince-Wright: Since you arrived in January, Man City has been on a pretty amazing run. What has the transition been like for you?

Abby Dahlkemper: It’s been great. My teammates, coaches and everyone at City has been so helpful and so welcoming. Luckily, I’ve been able to participate on the field and help the team get results.

We’re really looking forward to this game against Chelsea. I think the team really put themselves in a good spot and now it comes down to this.

Alex Azzi: Moving to a new city, a new country, in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t sound like the easiest transition. What has life looked like for you off the pitch?

Dahlkemper: I think this past year, year-and-a-half, everyone has been trying to do their best given the circumstances. Health and safety [come] first and foremost. When I came over, it was during a national lockdown, but Manchester has been great given the circumstances. I am living downtown and the weather has not been as bad as people were warning me so hopefully that will continue.

Azzi: In terms of day-to-day training, have you noticed any differences or similarities between the U.S. and England in terms of how practices are structured or the knowledge that your teammates bring to the field?

Dahlkemper: I think everyone here is just very technical and tactical, which is amazing. There aren’t a lot of unforced turnovers. I think that players [are taught to] really appreciate the ball. Defensively, it’s really hard to get the ball back.

Azzi: You also played abroad in Australia a few years ago, right? How would you say going abroad can influence a player’s career and development?

Dahlkemper: It’s always great to add layers to your game. Just being able to have experiences – both on and off the field in different environments…

I’m lucky that Rose and Sam are here; they made the transition a little less dramatic. But I think going overseas – or just generally stepping out of your comfort zone – is a really good thing for people to learn in order to ultimately get better.

Prince-Wright: I spoke to Sam at the start of the season about some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. The two countries are similar in a lot of ways, but there are quite a few differences. I think she mentioned something about washers and dryers not being very good over here in England. Are there any little things like that that have made you laugh?

Dahlkemper: Yeah, I mean the washer and dryers are like a two-in-one so that’s a little bit new to me. [Another] example is that there’s not a lot of iced coffee, it’s all warm. Going into coffee shops, I’m like, ‘Do you have ice?’ [That] doesn’t happen in America; I feel like there are huge ice machines everywhere.

Prince-Wright: Heading into Wednesday’s game against Chelsea, it could be the title decider. Is it a boost that you, Sam, and Rose have big game experience and know how to win titles both domestically and at events like the World Cup? What would your message be to teammates who haven’t been in those situations before?

Dahlkemper: First and foremost, everyone’s really excited. When you look at your career, these are the games that you want to be a part of.

If we’re able to stick to the process and what has gotten us in this position in the first place, I think that’s going to important. In big games and in big moments, [what makes the difference] is the little things.

I know this team is going to be up for a fight and up for a battle. Like I said, it’s these games that you want to be a part of.

Azzi: Since August, Man City and Chelsea have met three times, and Chelsea has won all three. But you also weren’t a member of City for those games. What is the team’s mentality heading into Wednesday given the recent history?  

Dahlkemper: I think the girls obviously weren’t happy with the result the past few times we’ve played Chelsea. So we’re really looking forward to this time. I think [our] team is in a different place and Chelsea is in a different place.

Obviously [Chelsea] has a lot of dangerous threats, they’re a great team. But we’re a great team as well. I think it’s just going to be a really good game of football and hopefully exciting for soccer fans to watch a game that means a lot for the League Cup.

Prince-Wright: There are new TV deals and a lot more sponsorship coming into the WSL, which is great to see. What do you think of the direction the league is heading in? Can we expect to see other U.S. women’s national team stars heading to the WSL next season – and beyond?  

Dahlkemper: I think it’s an exciting time to for women’s soccer. Obviously there are huge TV deals coming in and [with the] exposure, more people paying attention to women’s soccer. And the talent is just growing and getting better.

I hope national team players are able to and want to make the move to Europe to experience this part of soccer. But it’s also very personal and depends on what you want individually. Obviously I’d be happy to see other national team players, but the NWSL is a great league as well and getting exposure and TV deals [too]. I think women’s soccer – across the whole world – is expanding, and that’s just positive.

Azzi: With the Olympics now under 100 days away, what has it been like balancing your goal of making the U.S. Olympic roster for Tokyo with what you’re trying to accomplish with Man City?

Dahlkemper: Yeah, it’s a hard balance. Given the schedule and the pandemic, any time that we get together with the national team, it’s really valuable. Obviously I really hope that I can make the Olympic roster and help the team win gold [in Tokyo] but I’m trying to be very present-based and take it day-to-day. So when I’m at camp, I’m at camp. And when I’m at City, I’m with City. Not taking anything for granted, just continuing to improve and learn in any area I can.

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Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.