Chandra Crawford is back! The Olympic Gold Medalist captured her first ever World Cup win on her home course in Canmore. The surprise winner of the Freestyle Sprint at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Crawford struggled through a difficult season last year, unable to crack the top-20 on the World Cup circuit.
That is all a distant memory now as Crawford followed up a strong 12th in the classic sprint with the victory in the final event of the Canmore World Cup week.
Crawford appeared to be on a mission from the get-go, qualifying in the 2nd position. The course suited the style of the local hero. â€œFlat and fast is good for me,â€ she told reporters after the race.
The speed of the course was evident throughout the day. It was nearly impossible to break up the heats of 6 early in the 1.2km loop. Several tried, charging up the first climb and opening a gap, but the pack always closed back on the downhills. Nearly every heat was decided on the long gradual uphill to the finish, and most were closely contested — often between four or 5 athletes.
Crawford did not take the chance of getting boxed in, or tangled up in the crowd, charging to front of every heat and leading or sitting in second until the final sprint. The hometown crowd loved every minute of it, going wild as the tall Canadian crossed the line first in the A-final, with her usual beaming smile plastered across her face.
Kikkan Randall sprints to the line against Germany's Stephie Boehler
Canada qualified three other women for the heats — veteran Sara Renner capped an excellent comeback week with her fourth consecutive race in the top-30, finishing 16th. Renner was in position to advance entering the final straightaway in her quarterfinal, but didn’t have quite the speed to hold off the hard charging Genuin at the line.
Sarah Daitch cracked the top-20 with an excellent 19th. Perianne Jones scored the final World Cup point, finishing 30th.
Karin Camenisch (SUI) who has raced the past seven years in the US qualified in 26th and skied a strong quarterfinal and finished 24th, scoring the first World Cup points of her career.
The course featured a sharp 180-degree turn into the final downhill. This tactical featured impacted many of the heats, providing the only place to open up a gap before the finish. Camenisch was in good position heading into the corner, 3rd place, on the tails of the leaders. She took the turn wide to maintain speed and German Stephie Boehler squeezed through on the inside, wedging her skis and forcing the remaining three to slow dramatically. The resulting gap was insurmountable. After the race, Camenisch noted that a lack of experience in the down and dirty world of World Cup sprinting played a significant role. â€œIt is a whole different level,â€ the former SuperTour Champion said.
At the finish line of the A-final, Crawford entertained the crowd with her trademark air guitar as her boyfriend, Canadian men’s star Devon Kershaw, leapt into the finish pen to embrace her. Crawford’s father watched his daughter’s triumph unfold from one of the best seats in the house — he manned the finish line camera for the television coverage.
Chandra Crawford entertains her home crowd