Crawford Back in Business

Kieran JonesOctober 4, 2010
Chandra Crawford double-poles during the recent CNST Camp in Quebec City

In North American cross-country skiing, there are few bigger names than Chandra Crawford. The 27-year-old Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) member has an Olympic gold from Turin, Italy in 2006, multiple World Cup medals, is the brains and face for her own organization, Fast and Female, and was featured on an episode of MTV’s Cribs.

Yet despite her high profile, at the recent CNST camp in Quebec City, Chandra Crawford was generous enough to allow FasterSkier to ride shotgun while she made a trip to the grocery store. For those curious about Crawford’s eating habits, she was making salsa and fajitas for herself and her housemates, and proved she was human by purchasing coffee like the rest of us.

FasterSkier: You now have two trips to the Olympic Games under your belt – can you compare your experience in 2006 to 2010?

Crawford Crawford: I feel like things happened in the reverse order. In 2006 I went with the goal of getting experience for 2010. My goal, since it was announced that the Olympics would be in Canada, was to win at the 2010 Olympics, and I wrote it on my goal sheets and journals. Since I won in 2006, I had an experience in 2010.

In 2010, since it was classic sprinting, I thought, ‘that’s fine, I’ll work on it.’ Then I got crazy injured during preparation, and I continued to try and stay positive and get through it. Then, while I was injured, the sprints were lengthened a bit, so that triple whammy made it extremely hard. At the same time, I did the absolute best I could, while constantly sensitizing the media and people to the whole situation so they weren’t putting unrealistic expectations on me. I felt like I succeeded in that when I went into the Olympics and read a big headline in the Globe and Mail that said something like ‘Take it easy on Crawford’ or something. Finally I thought ‘Okay, so everyone gets it, it’s classic, I won in skating – it’s not the same in both.’

That being said, I had a great time at the 2010 Games; I enjoyed the Olympic experience. In 2006, there was nothing Olympic about it. We were just in our little house on the ski trails, there were some rings on the hill, but otherwise, it was a very normal-looking race. In 2010 it was totally different. I went to both the opening and closing ceremonies, I went to the athletes village and checked it out– all things that I didn’t do in 2006.

You never get that first time back and people were keeping an eye on me. I wasn’t going in there to get a medal for Canada, I was going in there to do my best, and try and get a top 30. At times I was really nervous about that prospect. There was just so much stress involved with getting to the Olympics – I had to re-qualify, and that made it all really stressful. I felt that once I got there and I was healthy, I was relaxed and just ready to do my best in the sprint. To enjoy the experience was the best thing I could do.

Chandra Crawford during the sprint qualifier at the Olympics in Vancouver 2010

FS: What has your post-Olympic spring and summer contained?

CC: The most important thing to me following the Olympics was creating an environment where I had everything I needed to succeed. I looked at leaving Canmore. I looked at joining other teams. I basically took a really hard searchlight to what was holding me back, and decided it was the injuries. The inability to get the training done was hurting me the most, so I was looking at ways to get those resources in place and to get some consistency in the coaching. I didn’t want to change the coach every year for the next four years. I was almost immobilized by the oppressive aftermath of the Olympics. My thoughts were ‘If I start training again, it’s going to be a mess with the coaches – I’m going to get injured.’ It was a serious low there, which is not my normal self. Then the national team hired Justin Wadsworth, and everything has been great. It’s amazing how much he’s been able to change the atmosphere on the team.

FS: And how are things going with Wadsworth? You mentioned the constant coaching changes – are you happy with where things are now?

CC: I’ve often wondered whether we were just a group of seriously whiny individuals, but seeing the transformation we’ve been able to make, when we have people listening and adapting things to what the best in the world are saying they need, that all goes away, and we can have a really positive environment.

FS: How about injuries? Are you completely injury free?

CC: Everything is under control with my ankle tendons. As you can see [shows her ankle], this is a really prominent tendon – it sticks out more than anyone that I’ve known. Most peoples’ ankle tendon stays behind their ankle bone, but mine pops out. I’ve seen a lot of physiotherapists and no one has ever seen it subluxing that much onto the bone. What have been amazing are my new Fischer boots (which Crawford received last October], which have tons of padding and are really comfortable. I’ve also managed to get into the right groove with three or four hours of therapy a week – everything is totally great.

FS: You’re still doing therapy – so there is still work to be done?

CC: Oh yeah. I have extensive strategies. The main thing is getting hands-on work from massage therapists and physiotherapists three times a week to loosen them up before they get too tight. As an athlete, my job is to go out and smash my body up and get everything all tight, and then I make a big commitment to come back and get worked on. The trick is when we go to camps and trips that we have these people available. So in addition to the national team making it a priority to bring therapists on the road, I’ve joined the team B210, which Devon and Alex are a part of, and they’ve covered message therapy for our last two camps. They have a great relationship with Justin, where they supply therapists for the whole team. While the only athletes are Devon, Alex and I, the whole team benefits from it.

FS: How were the two big camps you have had so far this year – New Zealand and Bend?

CC: New Zealand was so beautiful! It was my third time on a ski trip, and fourth time ever. The skiing was amazing, and it was a really nice treat to ski with the Americans. Their team is really strong, and they have a great vibe going on right now. We really enjoyed working together with them.

Bend was cool – we had bad weather, but we were happy to be there! You hear so much about Bend as a training location, so it was great to finally get to check it out.

We have been just hammering on technique. I thought the biggest thing in both Bend and New Zealand was that we did so much skiing, with Justin just drilling us. We would be in the van driving home with the laptop on his knees telling us what he wanted. You can tell that he has spent a lot of time on it.

FS: What specifically was he working on with you?

CC: I think it’s pretty cool to still make big gains in my strength areas. I always say ‘ah, I’m good at skating,’ but that’s not the way it is. You have to constantly be improving – it’s a lifelong thing. For me, double-poling is so hard! How is this movement so freaking hard? So, my big gains in technique are in double poling. I’m so committed to double-poling that sometimes I get so intense that I can’t even double-pole at all. That’s how much I want to make the changes, but it’s a process.

FS: I’ve heard you guys have started using [the computer program] DartFish?

CC: Yeah! It was always rumored to be a part of our program, but I had never seen it in action. In my last year and a half, I had to get away from a few things to focus with my injuries, so maybe if I hadn’t been injured, I would have had more time to seek that out, but I have not seen it used as well as Justin does now.

FS: What about workouts? Has Wadsworth shaken things up in that department?

CC: The one advantage of having so many coaches is that I’ve experienced a few different philosophies and styles. I feel like his [Wadsworth’s] style is closest to, say, in 2008, when I was working with Steinar [Mundal, then National Team Head Coach], and I managed to win a few World Cups. It’s always building, never really totaling your body. Always building an upswing, rather than constantly going for volume, or effort. Really making sure that each time you do something it is with a purpose, and you bounce back from it faster than before and challenge yourself with something else. I think that’s different. I think a lot of us at this level really want to embrace the work, and get digging. So sometimes you’re digging yourself into a hole, or not even a hole, but flat-lining.

FS: What’s new on Fast and Female, your other project?

CC: Today we come out for our workout – Me, Perianne [Jones], Dasha [Gaiazova] – the last couple of days, Peri was sick, and it was down to just Dasha and I. Yet there were twenty dudes! You can assemble twenty dudes like a flash mob any second of any day, it seems. The guys are going for it, and it’s something cultural in our society right now, and it’s one-sided. There’s a definite need [for Fast and Female], we recognize that.

We’re going to have 14 events in three months over the winter! Fast and Female is slamming! We’ve managed to hire someone [Marie-Helene Thibeau], who was working part time for Fast and Female, who is now working almost full time. Also, Kikkan [Randall] is on board now doing great stuff!

FS: Speaking of Kikkan Randall, I’ve heard she is coming to Park City to train with you guys.

CC: I love Kikkan! She’s so amazing! We just work together so well! She’s an amazing athlete, an incredible trailblazer for the Americans, and really fun to work out with. On top of that, she’s involved with Fast and Female – she’s on our board of directors, her mom is on our board of directors, so we’re really working on that.

We have a great relationship. She for sure wears the pants in the relationship – I just do what Kikkan’s doing, a lot of the time. She’s really confident in what she is doing, and that’s great, we work together and make little adjustments where we can. Whenever we’re training, I just try and hang with her. We were doing 30 second intervals in New Zealand, and we got to the end of the workout, we said ‘one more’ and we just couldn’t stop – we kept going! Finally, the coaches were like ‘okay you guys…’

FS: You’re headed over to do the first World Cups, sprint and distance? What do you need to do to be successful for those first few races?

CC: Yeah, super stoked for World Cups! We’re starting in Bruksvallarna, will race Kuusamo, and then Gallivare. I really don’t think if you had told me four years ago that I still wouldn’t be hitting up distance races, I would be happy. I think I’ve missed so much training that I just need to stay in my strength area and be patient. I’ll do it [distance racing] whenever the chance arises, and my long term goal is to be good at it, I just have to pick the right time to throw myself at it. Right now I’m just coming back from injury, so I just want to be successful rather than taking risks. And sprints are longer now, so the training is pretty similar. I mean, a girl who wins a sprint race for sure can win 10 k as well. We’re training in a pretty normal style, just with a sprint mindset.

FS: What are your main goals for this season?

CC: World Champs is number one. I want to get in that final! I like the course, I like the venue. In terms of other goals, there are a few races I have goals to get to the finals, a few races I’m going for the podium, and I have other races I really just want to make the top 30. I really want to make the Top 30 in Kuusamo and Davos. The main ones I have targeted for good results are Dusseldorf, Liberec, Oslo, and then the spring tour.

FS: Lastly – what was the deal with that Cribs episode? What was that like?

CC: The whole Cribs situation could be described by the word weird. When Devon [Kershaw, her boyfriend and CNST member] and I filmed that, in the summer of 2008, we were renters in that place, which is entirely – floors, walls, door, and trim – beige. We agreed to it because we were stoked about Devon’s handiwork making storage in the garage for our ski gear. We were training super-hard and put in a minimal effort the night before filming just to have the place clean but if we’d known it would air a million times, we would have had some friends hanging out and planned more to make it funny. In the end,  we haven’t watched it, as we’ve derived a satisfactory amount of embarrassment and cringing from the stories people tell us about it (if you think hearing your own voice is weird…) – and we don’t have cable. However, it was the most exposure I got around the Games, and tons of people seem to recognize me from it, so that’s kinda fun. And any amount of promo for Fast and Female is good news – which is why I still wore a pink shirt even though it totally clashed with my red Ducati [her motorbike].

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Kieran Jones

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