Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three part series. You can read the first part here.
Torin Koos: Sara is there a singular influence that set your career on the right path? I know you and Dave Woods have worked forever together.
Sara Renner: It has to be Dave. He’s been my coach since the junior days. I believe most of the success the Canadian team has had is because of Dave’s hard work and his belief in his athletes. He’s just… given his life to cross-country skiing. I think no one in the history of our sport has ever done more for a country’s development than Dave. I’m extremely grateful to him. What’s nice, too, is when it’s all said and done, I’ll call Dave up. We’ll still go running together.
It’s unfortunate but in Canadian skiing, Dave’s had to weather a few storms.
TK: Political storms?
SR: Exactly. He doesn’t get half as much credit as he deserves.
TK: Wasn’t he first your junior coach in Canmore?
SR: Right. The thing is Dave is so tough. He still runs in and out of the Haig Glacier with us. He’s very determined. The last time I went roller skiing with him was very traumatic. He crashed and totally bashed his finger. It was at a 90 degree angle. Only it was 90 degrees the wrong way. Dave wouldn’t let me drive him back to the hospital. He didn’t want to interrupt my training by driving him there. Can you believe that? Yes, Dave’s committed.
TK: I want to know a little more about the Beckie – Sara dynamic. You both grew up in Alberta, known each other since you were twelve years old.
SR: Yes. We’ve spent so much time together. We basically started out as kids – or what it feels like it now – and followed out our ski dreams together.
Those first years in Europe, we had one team van. We had Yves, our wax technician. We had just Dave, Beckie and me most of the time. We just grew as ski racers and people together. When you spend a decade with someone, you really get to know them so well. We had a really great time.
It’s funny though. Beckie gave a presentation to our team this fall. Beckie talked about what she does to mentally prepare for ski racing. It was bizarre because this was all new stuff to me. We never, ever, talked about ski racing. It was ski racing. Then it wasn’t. Then it was having fun together.
TK: So you left the racing on the trail.
SR: Oh, yeah. I learned a lot from her just by watching. But there’s so much more I could have learned. It just wasn’t part of our off-skiing time or Beckie’s character. She didn’t really like to talk about the details of ski racing, which I understand.
TK: Do you like talking about the details of skiing?
SR: No. Not really.
TK: I didn’t think that was a trademark of yours. In 2003, you tied the knot with Thomas Grandi. Soon after both you and Thomas’ careers blossom.
SR: How old are you?
SR: Well, I have this theory. When you get married then turn thirty, recipe for success. Seriously, look at George (Grey). He got married this past summer. He’s twenty-nine now. But just wait and watch out next year. It’s going to be a different George than you’ve ever seen. It’s the power of being married and turning thirty. Keep that in mind, Torin.
TK: You met Thomas at a Halloween party.
SR: Yes. How do you know this? Who are your sources?
TK: I’ve done my research.
SR: It was Halloween. I was dressed up as a scarecrow. I was nineteen. And that’s all I’m going to let you know.
TK: Your daughter Aria came into your life two years ago. Now you’re back racing.
SR: The comeback initially was more flexible. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t know if it was realistic. Or, ‘Did I have the motivation?’ I would say I didn’t. I was very much into being a mom. I still trained some but then, as more time passed, I got my fire back. I know now I wouldn’t be skiing if I wasn’t a mother. The time for me to just be a skier, that time has passed.
TK: The Canadian Olympic Committee has made it a little easier for you, too.
SR: They have a traveling nanny fund. Ivan (Babikov) has this too. He doesn’t bring his kid with him, but he uses this for childcare back in Canmore. It’s pretty amazing that they do this.
TK: What has the experience been coming back?
SR: There have been moments where I said, “This is not going to work.” These came earlier. I really wasn’t sure then. I remember showing up for the first training camp. It was like, “Oh, God. This is bad.” I didn’t make a promise to myself that I had to do it. I think I did it the right way. I took it real slow. Last year, I wanted to be home more with Aria. This made for a pretty short World Cup schedule. I’m really glad I did this.
It’s interesting. Being a mom is nothing unique on the cross-country skiing. But North Americans, people find this as a new thing. It’s kind of inspiring to see how many moms manage to have a family and race fast. With Marianna Longa and all the others, it’s hard to be top mom.
Torin Koos is a member of the National A Team for the United States. A World Cup, World Championship and Olympic competitor, Koos brings this experience to the FasterSkier sportscasting arena.
Equipment: Rossignol Skis, Boots and Bindings, Toko gloves and wax, Marwe, Exel poles, Rudy Project Eyewear, Rossignol Softgoods
Home Ski Club: Leavenworth Winter Sports Club (www.skileavenworth.com)
Headgear Sponsor: USA Pears (www.usapears.com)
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