No one would have been surprised if Sara Renner had arrived at the delivery room on a pair of skis.
Although the three-time Olympic cross-country skier put her World Cup training routine on hold while she was pregnant with her first child, there was no chance of keeping her off the trails.
“I skied the day before she was born,” Renner, 31, said of her daughter Aria, who was born Feb. 1. “Skiing was a good complement to the waddle. It was really uncomfortable to walk, but to ski . . . I was so glad I was pregnant in the winter.
“I didn't train, but I really do love my sport and even a winter without it, I think, would be very difficult for me.”
Renner, who is married to alpine skier Thomas Grandi, won a silver medal in the sprint relay at the 2006 Torino Olympics with longtime buddy and training partner Beckie Scott. She also finished 10th overall on the Nordic World Cup circuit in 2005-06.
The Canmore resident took last season off to start a family with Grandi, a 14-year veteran of the national alpine team who retired from competition at the end of March.
Cutting back on her demanding training regimen during pregnancy — pre-Torino, she was doing up to 30 hours a week — made her a popular target on the trails.
“I went out (skiing) with my friends and it was great because normally they can't keep up to me,” said Renner with a satisfied chuckle.
“For the first time in their lives, they were leaving me behind, so they were happy. I was definitely a marked target at the (Canmore) Nordic Centre all winter because there were tons of people that wanted to dust an Olympic medallist.
“Which they did.”
Renner's next big target is the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in 2010.
She resumed training in May with a little help from Grandi who, in Renner's words, turned into “Mr. Mom” to give her time to work out. But she still schedules her workouts around Aria and and is trying to be patient with herself as she battles to regain fitness.
“I knew that to have a family, it would be better to have it as early as possible,” said Renner.
“I definitely knew it would be easier to come back if I had more time but, at the same time, you can't rush these kinds of things, either.
“You know, I'm never going to have a young baby again and I really want to enjoy it and make sure that I have energy for that. Vancouver is three years away, so I have time. I know I have some time to be in my best shape. I won't be in my best shape this year, but it will come.”
Renner's schedule involves up to 20 hours of solo dryland training at the Nordic Centre — twice a day for five days. She also roller-skis sporadically with the women's national ski team in Canmore.
But thanks to some wise words from a few mother hens who have been there and done that, she doesn't feel any pressure to make a quick comeback.
“There's quite a few women who've had babies who are cross-country skiers, so I had some great advice on not panicking and not rushing it,” said Renner. “It takes nine months for your body to (prepare for) a baby, so it's going to take a while for your body to come back.
“My goal is to be in my very best form for Vancouver. It's hard to say how long it'll take because I've never had a child. I definitely have a goal for the Vancouver Olympics and that's to be a contender in all the events.
” . . . It doesn't matter how long it takes me to get to that spot, but by Vancouver 2010, I hope to be a challenger in every event.”
Although Renner hasn't started training full time with the national team, she'll find her ski legs racing domestically in Canada at the start of the season.
She plans to return to the World Cup stage on Jan. 22 in Canmore and will then resume traveling on the 2007-08 international circuit with Grandi and Aria.
“I'm really amazed at how quickly I've come back and how I've really almost reached my old training levels very easily,” she said. “. . . I really enjoy my training because it's a good break but, at the same time, I can't wait to get home. I have a focus in my day and that's sport when it has to be, and then my family for the rest of the day.
“I've really returned to my sport refreshed and full of energy. Having a child is such a great thing to come home to, also.”
Renner's Olympic pal Scott retired in April 2006. But Scott is also due to give birth in September, so before long they might be squeezing in skiing lessons together.
“People are always like, is (Aria) going to be an alpine skier or cross-country? I just hope we have fun together on skis as a family. That's pretty much my goal.”
Related on FasterSkier.com:
Five questions for Sara Renner
Source: Cross-Country Canada, The Calgary Herald