The third place by Canadians Chandra Crawford and Dasha Gaiazova in Sunday’s team sprint in Dusseldorf was a breakthrough for both women. For Crawford, it was her first World Cup podium finish in three seasons, and her first-ever in the team sprint, while for Gaiazova, it was her first-ever World Cup podium, period. FasterSkier was able to catch up with Crawford after the race to hear about the hectic racing in Dusseldorf, how she and Gaiazova prepared for it, and the factors that have made the difference for the Canadians this year.
FasterSkier: So, can you walk me through the final heat?
Chandra Crawford: It was already a successful day, because we made the final, and we were the first Canadians to ever do that here in Dusseldorf. And certainly, Canada, the women’s side hasn’t had any medals in the team sprint since Sara [Renner] and Beckie [Scott] retired, so it’s a big step for our country, I think.
FS: Do you feel like it’s a good event for you and Dasha?
CC: Dasha really started that process of believing. That belief—that’s so critical for success for both of us. Two weeks ago, she started saying to me ‘I think we can do it, I think we can do it,’ and I was flattered she thought I was coming into enough fitness to be a good partner. This weekend, I think that belief was able to turn into a good result. I’ve never had a sprint relay like today. It’s always been just brutal for me. I’ve always thought it’s the hardest event by far, because by the second lap I’m usually really pumped out, really obliterated with all my fast-twitch
muscle fibers. Today, we were able to ski relaxed, and it was really fast, and that made a big difference.
FS: The final was pretty messy, but it looked like you guys navigated it well.
CC: Yeah, it was really aggressive out there. It’s a narrow course, and it’s 1:45 race, so there were parts where Dasha would double pole along the inside of a corner, or make a sketchy pass, or one time someone’s basket got caught in her race suit—all these things were really chaotic. The falls, the crashes were just unreal. I think in fast conditions like that, if you’re not riding your flat ski, or if you’re really jittery, or nervous, or carrying the weight of the expectations of your country, it’s harder to stay on your feet. But for us, we were just having a good time, and skiing comfortable and aggressively in that pack, so that was a good way to do it.
FS: There was obviously Visnar’s crash in the finish. But there was also an earlier crash in that lap crash on the uphill, right?
CC: I think us and Italy were the only ones who didn’t crash. I was skiing as hard as I could [into the finish]—I was skiing in fourth, and I was just going all-out, all the way, and then somehow, yet another crash. She just crashed all on her own, and we just were so lucky to be out of the trouble, and to be able to react, and jump over people as they went down. And they were going down.
FS: It looked like you guys managed to just sneak out of a few crashes. Do you feel like you were doing something in particular that helped?
CC: Probably being relaxed and excited. But being prepared for it. We both went over what happened in our heats yesterday, and how aggressive we had to be, and shared tips back and forth. This is my third sprint relay here, so I’ve had a lot of things to learn from that we’ve been able to implement. As far as staying out of trouble, it was just a matter of staying calm around it, and reacting well. We knew this was going to be a factor in Dusseldorf. Last week when we were doing intervals we had help from one of our coaches [Eric de Nys], who was doing intervals with us. He was pushing us, and at one point he laid down on the course on the inside of one of the corners. It speaks to preparation. You can prepare for anything!
FS: So, I’m assuming you knew you were in fourth place—what went through your mind when you saw the Slovenian go down?
CC: It was a crazy feeling. It was a feeling of just total luck. A lottery-winning kind of feeling. Dasha and I are—I don’t know, some idiom or something where we’re just such big, overdramatic personalities both of us, so we really let our lack of inhibition shine and let out a whole bunch of screaming.
FS: Do you think you’ll pay more attention to this event in the future? Or do you feel like your bread and butter is still the individual skate sprint?
CC: I will reallocate a percentage of myself to the classic sprint at World Champs, and some good belief and teamwork with Dasha. Just the idea that we could possibly make that final at World Champs would be great, and certainly a lot of luck came our way today. A lot of the
stronger teams weren’t on the start line, and everybody else crashed, but at the same time, that’s the way it goes in sprinting. So, I’m definitely fired up for World Champs more than I have ever been. This whole weekend got me fired up for that big, big event in Oslo.
FS: And now you’re qualified, thanks to your eighth place Saturday, right?
CC: Yeah! It was a big deal yesterday that I got my first top-10 in two years, and to get the podium today was just so surprising. The first podium for Dasha. Just great team environment. It really speaks to the big changes on our team. We’re really happy as a team—our atmosphere is really great as a team now. We got through the chaos and changes around trying to get ready for the Olympics, and made some big shakeups this spring that we’re really happy with. [It’s] the best environment ever, with coaching with Justin, with our technicians, within the team—everybody’s working together. We have therapists on the road so we don’t get injured, we have sports psychologists now, we have all these things that were just somehow lost in the frenzy of 2010. All the basic, important things that are now a part of our program that will enable us to succeed. And the women, my god. It’s cool to have our team grow towards a little more balance. Maybe we’ll be able to bring some of those up-and-comers on the World Cup next year. It’s really exciting to have that feeling that we’re a part of this team, and having that success. The guys are amazing right now, and we like to see it as a whole team with all of us.
FS: Last question—we heard that you guys still don’t have your luggage from the trip from Finland. What did you race in?
CC: It’s been a month on the road here, and we lost all our bags in Helsinki. I had my race suit and boots in my carry-on on the flight. I just raided this bag of [teammate] Devon [Kershaw’s] I found in the van, and I found these oversized warm-ups, but only one set, so in the driving sleet and rain I had to keep moving because I was wet, and I didn’t have anything dry to put on. It was tough, weatherwise, not having any of our gear, but we cobbled everything together.