NOVÉ MĚSTO NA MORAVĚ, Czech Republic – For the Canadian team, just being in the stadium at World Championships for yesterday’s mixed relay felt pretty good.
Take Rosanna Crawford, the scramble leg skier for Canada. With her breakout season – she finished 12th in a World Cup sprint in Pokljuka, Slovenia, earlier this year – it’s easy to forget that the whole World Championships experience is new for her.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she told FasterSkier, practically shouting over the din of the 27,000 spectators who were cheering as the second-leg women shot on the range. “This is my first World Champs and I’m pretty stoked to be here. It’s an amazing crowd – I can’t believe how many people are here. It’s so cool.”
While Crawford said the craziness didn’t get to her too much and she was able to focus, things still didn’t go as smoothly as she would have liked. On her best days, Crawford is nearly perfect on the range. On Thursday, she relied on two spares in prone and one in standing to knock down all her targets.
“That is too many for me,” she said. “I think I might have come in a bit too hard on my prone, and not hard enough on my zero. Sometimes that pushes my shots high… So hopefully the other guys can have a better shooting day than I did.”
Nevertheless, there were plus sides to her performance: despite the errors she tagged off in 11th place, just over a minute behind Tora Berger of Norway. That isn’t a bad spot for the Canadians, and Crawford felt good on her skis.
“Skiing was definitely way better than Ruhpolding and Antholz,” she said, referring to the January races where her ski speed was not up to par with her earlier strong results.
Megan Heinicke took over and improved slightly on Crawford’s shooting, using only two spare rounds total rather than three. But she was stymied on the trails, skiing the 19th-fastest time of her leg and dropping to 14th. From there, Jean Philippe Le Guellec took over. Although he shot the same as Heinicke and skied better, he wasn’t able to gain any spots.
Still, like Crawford, he felt that the relay was a positive way to kick of World Championships.
“It’s good to be back at World Championships, being healthy,” said the Canadian, who this season is finally getting over the long-lasting effects of mono. “I think that’s the main thing. For the rest, we did preparation, and we’ll see how it goes during the week, but I think we’ve done all we can do for now. It’s just to ski hard and shoot.”
As he watched the video screen to see how anchor leg Scott Perras was doing, Le Guellec said that he thought the relay would turn out to be “an okay race, but nothing phenomenal.”
For his part, he was relatively happy, and said that it was good to test out the courses, which he knew would present challenges throughout the week.
“It’s a really, really, really hard course,” Le Guellec told FasterSkier. “It’s just right out of the range you’re going up for quite a while. You don’t have a lot of recovery once you get to the top – you have a small horseshoe which goes down, but you’re not really recovering because you need to turn a lot, so the recovery is pretty hard. Then you’re going up again for another 30 or 40 seconds.”
And as for how to handle that level of difficulty? His strategy seemed to have worked so far.
“It’s very demanding but I paced myself,” Le Guellec said. “You really have to. It’s a fun course though.”
Perras ended up using one spare in each stage, and despite strong skiing dropped to 15th; more than any mistake on his part, that was perhaps due to a charging Fredrik Lindström of Sweden, who was frustrated to receive the tag in 15th and skied the fifth-fastest anchor leg to pass Canada and move up a spot.
15th is still an improvement on Canada’s result from last year’s World Championships, where Zina Kocher, Megan Imrie, Le Guellec, and Nathan Smith finished 18th.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.