Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three part series.
It’s springtime in Falun. The best cross country skiers in the world are all congregated together as I saddle up next to Sara Renner on St. Patty’s Day. A passerby gives Sara a hard time for not wearing green. “No, that’s not true. I have green on. You just can’t see it.” The world wanted to know. Now we do. Sara loves green socks.
Torin Koos: Sara, to become a skier from Canmore/Banff area, was this a difficult decision to make?
Sara Renner: Well, let’s get one thing straight. Canmore is a one-time coal mining town. Banff is the glitzy tourist town. There’s lots of animosity there. I could never call Banff home, even if Mt. Assiborne is nearby. I’m a Canmore girl. And, yes, becoming a cross-country skier here came pretty easy.
The 1988 Olympics made Canmore into such a place for skiing, especially for kids. In junior high and high school all my friends cross-country skied. We’d also get together and do adventures in the mountains. This made the scene social and fun, just hanging out and skiing.
TK: What was it like being twelve and having the Olympics in your hometown?
SR: In Canada there’s not much exposure to the high-performance levels of our sport. You cannot watch skiing on television like any European kid can. Cross-country skiing at the Olympics took me by surprise – how exciting it was, the important it was. As a kid seeing this, it’s hard not to get the bug.
TK: You got the bug.
SR: Yes. (smiles).
SR: Yes. (more smiles).
TK: What do you remember about those early days skiing?
SR: Just that in Canmore, skiing, in particular cross-country skiing, is the thing to do. People talk about sports models, how you should do intervals and yada-yada-yada. But, really, if you have a group of people to do a sport with, this is the most important. I still think this is why I’m still doing it. I’ve always felt I’ve had a good team. This keeps me coming back.
TK: You had a quote one time I really liked, “Good things happen when you have great team chemistry.”
SR: Yes! Exactly. Wait – I said this?
TK: Sure did. How do you build this?
TK: Or did you just luck out from situation to situation?
SR: I really think so. First, there was an incredible team when it was Beckie, Mileane, the Fortier sisters (Jaime and Amanda) and I. With Beckie, especially, it’s just been amazing – one of the best influences on my career – not to mention the friendship that we have.
With a smaller team, maybe this is easier. The smaller the numbers, the more intimate, the more you get to know one another, the more you rely on one another for support.
TK: Going back to the early years, did you always have Olympic dreams?
TK: How’s they get started?
SR: I remember watching the Olympic awards ceremony in Canmore. It was one after another – Norwegian, Russian, Swede. I thought, “Why can’t it be Canadian? Why can’t we be up there?”
In the beginning I asked myself this question often. When I started, we were so bad. Then, eventually, we started to get better. I think this is similar to what the Americans have been going through, a steady climb through the ranks.
TK: But in 1988, you had Pierre Harvey.
SR: But he didn’t do well in the Olympics.
TK: … when he lost all his allusions…
SR: I didn’t even know about the World Cup back then. To follow the World Cup, you had to look in the back pages of the newspaper.
TK: It made the paper?
SR: It did.
TK: So Pierre Harvey didn’t have much influence on your career.
SR: No. I was too young. We had two sisters, though. The Firth sisters, Sharon and Shirley. You heard of them?
TK: They’re from the super-far north, the Northwest Territories, right?
SR: Yes. They were Indian and were quite influential to me. They worked in heli-ski lodges as did my parents. I met them. I knew they were skiers. They were just gorgeous. One gave me a hat. They were so nice, so beautiful. I wanted to be just like the Frith sisters. Since then we’ve became friends. They’re just incredible people. One lives in France, married to the head of Rossignol. The other sister runs youth development for aboriginal kids up north. They really give back to the community and the kids back there.
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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