Canada's Sara Renner Reels in Bronze Medal at Nordic World Ski Championships
-Canadian Nordic squad enjoys strongest day ever at World Champs –
Oberstdorf, GER-It took eight years of hard work, countless hours of training, and the patience of a lion waiting to pounce on its prey, but Canada’s Sara Renner finally had her breakthrough performance on Tuesday, winning a bronze medal in the sprint event at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Wearing a newly-designed speed suit that is commonly used by speedskaters, the Canmore, Alta. native claimed her first international medal on the world’s elite cross-country ski circuit after coming from behind in the sprint final to finish third in front of more than 16,000 screaming fans that lined the one kilometre loop in Germany.
“I was standing in the final heat of four as the dark horse with nothing to lose,” said Renner, who has enjoyed one of her best seasons ever on the World Cup with numerous top-10 finishes. “I really enjoyed it and had so much fun out there. It was a blast, and I was jubilant when I looked to see my name really was in third on the scoreboard.”
Renner qualified for the round of 16 heats in 12th spot. The heats consist of four athletes in each race racing simultaneously, with the top-two athletes crossing the line first moving onto the next round. The 28-year-old Canuck, who had little trouble skiing her way into the final group, was in fourth throughout the final heat until she blasted her way into third on the stretch drive home, nearly missing a silver medal.
“Thomas (Grandi) was here so I knew I had to ski the downhill part of the course really well,” laughed Renner of her husband, who has emerged this year as the new leader of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. Grandi is also enjoying a breakthrough season having won two World Cup gold medals in December. “I came from behind all day today, and did in the final as well. I was fourth all the way through, but I knew my skis were really fast, I realized I was better at double poling than I thought, and I reeled them in at the finish.”
Renner, who has often been caught in the shadows of Beckie Scott’s Olympic gold medal success, now solidifies a strong one-two Canadian punch for the national squad heading into the Olympic year.
“Beckie and I could have both been on the podium together today,” said Renner who added her result would help raise the bar for the entire program. “Beckie has been a trailblazer for me, and an inspiration with everything she does. I have learned so much from her and this is going to make our team that much stronger.”
Scott was in position to join her teammate, and World Cup comrade, on the podium. The Vermilion, Alta. native qualified for the heats in fifth spot, but was eliminated in the opening round, and settled for 13th.
A tribute to the Madshus Sprint Series, a development level race circuit in Canada, the Canadians have emerged as one of the strongest sprint teams around the globe. In addition to Renner’s medal-wining performance, it was a remarkable day for the entire Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team – one of the youngest teams in the world. Canada had five of its six athletes in the top-25, including three top-15 finishes. World Cup 22-year-old rookie, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., also qualified for the final heats for the first time in his young career in men’s action, and finished 14th. Other Canadian results included: George Grey of Rossland, B.C. in 19th; while Drew Goldsack of Red Deer, Alta. was 21st; and Gord Jewett of Toronto was 37th in the men’s race. Milaine Theriault of St. Quentin, N.B. was the only other Canadian woman to suit up, and finished 22nd.
“This is definitely an encouraging performance, especially for the young guys like Devon and Drew, and it is great to see we are in the game. I hope we can build on it,” said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “I think we had good preparation heading into this event, good skis, and our team is willing to come back and fight each race. I am happy for the entire group and it is awesome to see Sara finally get on the podium.”
Renner was joined on the podium by two Swedish skiers. Emelie Oehrstig was the fastest woman all day, having led the qualifier, and claimed the gold medal in the heats. Oehrstig’s teammate, Lina Andersson took home the silver medal.
On the men’s side of the draw it was Russia’s Vassili Rotchev who becomes the king of the Nordic sprint after winning the gold medal in a race to the wire. Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland finished second, while Sweden’s Thobias Fredriksson was third.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 45,000 members are athletes, coaches and officials, including members of the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team and Canadian Disabled Cross-Country Ski Team. Cross-country skiing is Canada’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.
1.Emelie Oehrstig, SWE; 2. Lina Andersson, SWE; 3. Sara Renner, Canmore, Alta.; 4. Anna Dahlberg, SWE; 5. Virpi Kuitunen, FIN.
13. Beckie Scott, Vermilion, Alta.; 22. Milaine Theriault, St. Quentin, N.B.
1.Vassili Rotchev, RUS; 2. Tor Arne Hetland, NOR; 3. Thobias Fredriksson, SWE; 4. Bjoern Lind, SWE; 5. Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset, NOR.
14. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 19. George Grey, Rossland, B.C.; 21. Drew Goldsack, Red Deer, Alta.; 37. Gord Jewett, Toronto.
Source: Cross Country Canada