DÃ¼sseldorf, GERâ€”Canada’s top nordic skiers got their feet wet — literally — while sprinting along the banks of the Rhine in their opening World Cup cross-country skiing sprint event of the season Saturday in DÃ¼sseldorf, Germany.
With a goal of measuring where they stand against the world’s best at this time of year, the five Canadians who hit the start line for the sprint event should have exchanged their race suits for wet suits as rain pelted down on the 1.5-kilometre sprint track.
However, it was 21-year-old Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta. who faired the best after a challenging early-season test for the Canadian squad. While none of the five Canadians qualified for the top-16 head-to-head heats, the World Cup rookie finished a respectable 28th in the event.
“We wanted to come here and get rid of some of the jitters, fine tune some skills and get a sense of where we stand against the top skiers in the world since we spend so much time training on our own at home,â€ said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team, who added the skis just weren't running fast on Saturday. â€œWe aren’t very happy at all with our results, but I thought Chandra came here and slugged it out and put in a solid performance and got the job done.â€
Joining Crawford in the women’s sprint for Canada was 2005 World Championship bronze medallist, Sara Renner of Canmore, Alta., who finished a disappointing 37th, while Dasha Gaiazova of Montreal finished in 51st position. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont. who is also competing full-time on the World Cup circuit for his first time this year, finished 37th in men’s racing, while George Grey of Rossland, B.C., crossed the line 60th.
It was no surprise in the women’s event winner. Marit Bjoergen continued her winning ways after claiming last season’s World Cup title, by crossing the line first. Finland’s Aino Kaisa Saarinen, who grabbed the silver medal, joined Bjoergen on the podium, while Russia’s Natalia Matveeva was third.
On the men’s side it was Sweden’s Peter Larsson who took home his first gold medal of the season after stretching out across the finish line ahead of Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland who settled for second spot. Larsson’s teammate, Thobias Fredriksson, rounded out the top three.
Canada sent a team that combines veteran leadership with youthful energy to the start line on Sunday when Sara Renner and Chandra Crawford competed in the women’s World Cup team sprint relay in DÃ¼sseldorf, Germany.
With 21-year-old World Cup rookie, Crawford, who was competing in her first team sprint relay, setting the pace, and 29-year-old Renner anchoring, the Canadian duo finished in 15th spot out of 24 teams, just missing out on qualifying for the finals. The 6 x 0.8-kilometre relay consists of two athletes who both complete the course three times after tagging each other in the exchange area. There are two heats of 12 teams, with the top-five in each heat advancing to the finals. Canada was seventh in their heat.
“Chandra and I both skied extremely well today, but we had some troubles in the exchange area which cost us a spot in the final,” said Sara Renner. “I think the point of this weekend though was to get one World Cup race in us before we host the World Cup in Canada, and get a feel for the pace. I know I’ve trained hard over the summer, I’m confident, and I’ll be expecting good results.”
While the Canadian squad did not perform as they had expected, the trip to Germany for the opening World Cup of the season will be valuable for their preparation.
“I think today was definitely better than yesterday’s individual sprints,” said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team, where World Cup rookie Chandra Crawford led the Canadian charge with a 28th-place result. “There are a lot of positives we can take out of a trip like this, and now we’ll have some measuring sticks to look at what we need to do to make sure we’re ready for the next World Cup.”
It was the Norwegian women who finished one-two in the women’s sprints. Norway I completed the final heats with a time of 10 minutes 5.7 seconds, while Norway II was four seconds off the pace (10:09.7) in second. Russia I rounded out the top three finishing in the bronze medal position with a time of 10:10.4.
The Canadian men’s team did not compete as George Grey of Rossland, B.C. was ill with the flu.
While the Canadian squad will now head back to Canada in chase of snow for final training preparations before the meat of the World Cup season gets underway, 2005 World Championship bronze medallist, Sara Renner, will meet up with her husband and World Cup gold medallist in alpine skiing, Thomas Grandi in Italy. The two will have a final site review of their Olympic venues.
“I had the same strategy heading into the 2002 Games, and spent a lot of time getting to know the course,” said Renner. “I’ll take this time to really get a feel for it, spend a lot of time on the imagery of the course, and run the trails so that I’m fully prepared.”
Renner and Grandi will return home to hold a joint media conference on Thursday, October 27, 2005 at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary at 11 a.m. It will be the final day the two will be together before the Olympics.
Source: Cross Country Canada