Chandra Crawford and Dasha Gaiazova are currently the only women on the Canadian World Cup squad. But their lack of teammates hasn’t held them back so far: Crawford, a 2006 Olympic gold medalist, won the FIS sprint in Rovaniemi that weekend, and Gaiazova skied to 24th place in the World Cup sprint in Kuusamo, en route to 48th place overall in the mini-tour.
Crawford didn’t have an excellent start to the World Cup season, but Head Coach Justin Wadsworth told FasterSkier that he wasn’t worried.
“Where Chandra is right now, it actually hasn’t been that bad,” he said. “We knew going into this year that our focus was her training for January and February. We’ve done a lot of threshold work and working on different parts of her physiology. She knew she was going to sacrifice some of these results in the early races to be there later, because we just didn’t want to skip over some part of her physiology.”
A couple of weeks ago, FasterSkier caught up with Crawford and Gaiazova at a coffeeshop in Rovaniemi, Finland, with a decorating style that Crawford called “garage sale chic.”
FasterSkier: So there’s only two of you, huh?
Chandra Crawford: This is 200 percent better than some of my trips last year! [Dasha and I] have been kind of offset the last couple of years. The last time we had a good solid troupe together was a while ago. I had a big off year for injury and she had a stellar rocking year, so now we have the band back together.
FS: Hopefully you both have a stellar rocking year this year…
CC: Yeah, we finally synchronized!
FS: So you just get to travel with the boys all the time – how is that?
Dasha Gaiazova: It’s good! Everyone’s so friendly and supportive of each other. And when we have a chance to hang out with American girls we certainly do, so that’s always fun. On the World Cup, Kikkan’s great, we know where she is and when we’re in the same place we’ll get together. I think we’ll have more girls joining us later in the season for World Championships. It’s been going really well and I think it will get even better with the girls.
CC: It puts a lot of different pressures on having such a small crew. If one of us gets sick or something happens back home, and one of us can’t come on a trip, then it’s like, boom, you’re on your own. So that’s different, the energy and the consequences.
DG: Don’t break a leg.
FS: Do you have a separate women’s team?
CC: We’re all one team. We have a World Cup team and a Development team, but this past year we’ve done everything together with only very microscopic differences between those two. Everyone lives in Canmore. Part of the national ski team deal is that everyone has to move to Canmore.
DG: The way it says it in the contract is that you commit to spending six months a year in Canmore, which basically translates to moving [if you’re in Europe in the winter]. So we’ve all been in Canmore for many years. Chandra was born there, and those who weren’t have moved there a long time ago, since their junior days. So we all train together all summer.
CC: It’s a super centralized system. Right now we have a really strong center in Quebec, too…
DG: They join us for camps and stuff.
CC: …at least with the guys, which is really cool this year because it’s such an important thing in such a far-flung country like ours, that we can all work together and use each other has been amazing. I’ve been really enjoying getting to work with those guys and their coach. Everyone from Quebec is doing a great job and there are some Westerners who are living at that center, going back and forth. And that’s the way to become a successful nation – sharing the love and good people. It’s a sport that’s not big on our continent so we’ve got to do something to work together.
FS: I know you’ve trained with Kikkan some – do you think that’s something we could be doing more, getting the two countries together?
CC: We made a huge step this year. In the past it wasn’t really possible. Our past coach was not interested in working with the Americans. But now our coach is an American! It’s totally different. Right from the first camp he was lining us up, lining our camps up as much as possible with the American crew, which is totally amazing for us. It’s really great for the women’s side in particular.
DG: They’re just such good girls, too.
CC: And then we went to Park City and Kikkan decided to come to our camp! It was initially going to be a U.S. camp but then they changed it to Sun Valley, but she came with us. And then she attracted all these Alaskans.
DG: Liz [Stephen] came…
CC: Liz lives there, but Katie Ronsse, and Morgan Smyth showed up, all these people who were training in Alaska. So that was really cool to see all these people come to this big amazing camp.
FS: Are you guys over here fort the rest of the winter, or will you be racing domestically at all?
DG: We’re focusing on the sprints, so we’ll do the next three World Cups after Gaellivare, and then we’re going to go home, do some training, skip the Tour de Ski, and come back for some more sprints.
FS: Are you ever going to do the Tour?
DG: I’ve done the Tour once, the very first edition of the Tour, I was actually in it. I didn’t finish. But Chandra here did. She crossed the finish line.
FS: Hey, finishing is pretty impressive.
CC: It’s cool that we got to do it.
DG: It’s definitely not in the short-term plans.
FS: Maybe the long-term plans?
DG: Possibly, one day, maybe.
CC: Maybe when we’re in our thirties.
DG: Thirties, that’s coming up pretty soon!
CC: This right now is a good tour for me, though. Five weeks, three World Cup sprints, and having these two tune-up races [in Beitostoelen and Rovaniemi] is for me essential, because I haven’t gotten to race much in the last couple years, so it’s good to get some stepping stones on the way to the World Cup.
DG: Forget the last couple years, even just after the summer! After taking six months off, it’s like, I forget how to do this!
FS: How do you feel about the upcoming World Cups?
DG: We hope to do really, really, really well. That’s the plan.
CC: We need to get a top-20 to qualify for World Championships, to be prequalified. So that might not seem like a real impressive goal, but it’s nice to have something realistic to focus on, and if we both get it by Davos, we’re going to go alpine skiing for half a day and treat ourselves.
DG: We’ll celebrate!
CC: Similarly our team has a really hilarious little bet going with Justin where if we get some criteria, like we have five podiums this winter, or if we get a medal at World Championships, and a couple of podiums, there’s a couple different combinations, if we do that, then we can have a training camp in Hawaii in the spring.
FS: Wow, that sounds nice! Good luck!
CC: We have our incentives and that’s what we’re working towards.
FS: Was that your idea or his idea?
CC: I think he threw it out there in one of our team meetings.
DG: I think there was some talk going about having a training camp in Hawaii. And one talk led to another, to the goals, and it was like, hey, well, if you achieve certain standards, then we’ll reward you with a Hawaii camp.
FS: Would you bring your skis?
CC: We’d bring rollerskis. We’d rollerski the volcano.
DG: It would be fun to rollerski.
FS: You don’t want to do any sand skiing?
DG: I’ve done it before. It’s so hard! You can’t even last for half an hour. So rollerskiing up the volcano road will be great.
FS: It seems like you guys are psyched to have Justin working with you this year. How does his approach differ from what you had before?
CC: Well, we’ve had a new coach every year for four years.
CC: So it’s been an amazing time to learn about different coaching styles. That’s the positive, I guess. But we’ve got something really solid in place now, he’s really committed. He’s got a place in Canmore and his kids are going to school in Canmore, so I think he’s going to last. It’s amazing to have that chance, to start a new year and go “well, how did last year work?” instead of just a whole new can of worms. That alone is going to be useful, building something up. It’s great having a coach with that much experience as a racer himself, and being married to Beckie [Scott] and having all that success to draw on.
FS: Does Beckie hang out with you guys?
DG: She comes…. it’s really cool to see her. You know, she just had a daughter. Once in a while she’d come for the workouts with us. Just having here there is like, wow, this is awesome. So for sure she makes appearances. She appears at the right moment. It’s been really cool to have her, and Justin also, share some bits and pieces from Beckie’s training and how she approached things.
CC: I feel like he has this ace in his back pocket, which he can play at any time. If you start a sentence with Beckie did, dot dot dot… instantly, we’re so calm. Oh, Beckie did this, and then she won. Oh, Beckie did this and then this happened. Oh, Beckie had a hard time with this and it’s like “yessss!” It’s such a strong, powerful anecdote to zing out at us.
DG: It’s kind of ironic, I feel, that we had to get Justin lured away from the American team to have Beckie back. She’s been racing for, I don’t know, a decade, probably more, for the Canadian team, and I’ve never had a ski trip with her, ever. I’ve never had a race trip with Beckie in my life. And now that Justin’s coaching us, I can hang out with her!
CC: We were just on that edge, being nine years younger than her.
FS: It seems like there were so many Canadian women, and now it’s just the two of you. Is it just a generational thing? It seems like Beckie would have inspired more women to ski.
CC: We noticed that, in about 2005. Like, we love Beckie and Sara Renner and Milaine Theriault, but who are we going to pass the torch to when we’re older and faster? Just kidding girls, forever young.
That’s how Fast and Female started, we were like, where are the juniors? And there’s a good group now, and amazing group I’d say at the World Cup Academy, a group of ten girls. I think one of the most important things is to have minimum team sizes because that gives hope to the next crew. If you send two women or no women on a trip, or you name a training center with 15 guys and one girl, the young girls looking up and aspiring to try to make that team are immediately going to shut down, because it’s not realistic, so I think that’s important. I know it’s painful for people to take the third girl instead of the twelfth guy, if that guy is really fast, but I think that’s important.
DG: And there are girls, like you said, at the Academy that are really really bright. I think it is a bit of a generational thing. There’s us and then there’s lots of developing girls, and nobody just knocking on our door. But there will be more girls. Chandra is working really really hard on that one. That’s her other job.
CC: Aw, thanks. I do really care about it.
Coming up later on FasterSkier: Part Two, or, How Fast and Female is moving into a brave post-Olympic World.