February 23, 2006
Crawford idolized Bedard
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN -- The new prime minister has been making it a policy to call Canadian athletes when they make it to the podium. But Stephen Harper probably wasn't expecting the reply from Chandra Crawford after she came out of nowhere to win gold in cross-country sprints yesterday.

"He called to congratulate me and I told him to invest more money in sport because he'd get it back in health care," the gold-medal winner said, flat out, when she got off the phone.

She told Harper that she's a great example.

There are a lot of members of Canada's Olympic team here from Alberta who were inspired by the Calgary 1988 Winter Games. Not this kid.

"I don't remember. I was four.

"But I grew up really close to the Nordic Centre in Canmore," she said of the town 20 kilometres on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains outside of Banff, pop. 12,000.

For six years she was in biathlon and her idol was Myriam Bedard.

"I had Myriam Bedard pictures on my bedroom wall," she said of the athlete who won double gold in Lillehammer 1994.

"I collected all the newspaper clippings. She was my role model. That's maybe the best thing about winning this medal. Now I get to be somebody's role model."

Maybe there's some other kid in Canmore ... "Canmore is one amazing town," she said. "It was an awesome place to grow up. It's right in the mountains and we biked and hiked and ran all over the mountains and dove into the river."

The people, she says, have been so good to the cross-country skiers who live and train there. And especially to her, the kid who grew up there and became Canada's first on-top-of-the-podium, watch-the-flag-go-up, hear-the-national-anthem gold-medal winner.

Beckie Scott has a gold from Salt Lake 2002, but originally had a bronze.

Drug busts upgraded that to silver and finally to gold.

She, Scott and Sara Renner, the two Canadian cross country skiers who brought Canada up from the bottom of the result sheets to the top - including their silver medal together here last week - were her inspiration when she switched sports.

While she's not the youngest Canadian to win a gold at the Winter Olympics (Kathy Kreiner was 19 when she won downhill skiing gold at the Innsbruck 1976 Olympics), she had to be the most unknown.

A bit like Simon Whitfield when he came out of nowhere and reeled in the leader and brought home a gold medal in triathlon, there were a whole lot of people here and back home who were saying "Who?"

That made her a special story from these Olympics.

And an inspiration.

"This is just so amazing. It's an amazing life to be an athlete. I hope this really inspires kids to get into sport. Canada is incredibly suited to cross-country skiing. I hope this inspires all kinds of kids to hop on skis and go out and ski."

Even the prime minister.

"I invited him out to visit us at our fabulous facility in Canmore," she said.







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