February 24, 2006
Living with 'total passion'
Parents' teaching helps Chandra Crawford win gold
STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

TURIN -- The gold medal is still around her neck. She won't let go of it. She can't.

It's all too fresh, too new, too unbelievable for Chandra Crawford, one day after she went from unknown to household name.

She is touching her medal, staring at it, mystified by it.

"I thought they looked kind of weird on TV, but they look so cool up close," she said, her voice still beaming with excitement, her tone so infectious.

"I keep looking at it, thinking, 'This is mine. This is my medal. I'm not taking it off. I'm going to wear it forever.'"

This is Day 1 of the rest of her life, her first day as a celebrity, first day to think about being Olympic champion. So much has happened in a whirlwind 24 hours for Canada at the Games: Cindy Klassen became a record breaker, Team Canada was eliminated in hockey, the Shannon Kleibrink rink rebounded for bronze.

Chandra Crawford saw none of it. She is living in a rented "funky little Italian home" with the rest of the cross country ski team in Sestiere, two hours from the city, with only local television, without a computer hook up, without any other real connection to the Games except through her teammates and support staff.

"I haven't even seen any of the coverage," she said. "You know it's funny. Here I am at the Olympics, but I really don't know what's going on. It's hard to imagine that everyone in Canada knows me. People keep asking, 'What's it like to be a celebrity?' I don't know what to think about that. It's kind of neat. I'm still relatively in the dark here."

But on Wednesday night here, with all of Canada watching hockey, Crawford and her family and her cross country family partied at a local establishment.

"I'm not really a party girl, but it was incredible," she said. "People were so excited. It was a rip-roaring party."

Crawford would not confess to her state of health yesterday morning -- headache or not -- but did admit to sleeping in and treating herself to french toast with a side of maple syrup. "I brought it with me, my own little part of Canada," she said. "I thought I deserved a treat so I had it."

Yesterday, after sleeping in and a short training session, it was interview time. One after the other. Networks. Radio stations. Newspapers.

"Every 15 minutes it's been someone else," she said. "I'm just getting used to doing this. I'm having fun with it. Nobody's ever wanted to talk to me before. It's like waking up and suddenly you have this platform to talk about sport and health and cross country and all the things that are important to me.

"My parents introduced me to the outdoor life at a very young age. They weren't into competition at all. We just went out as a family and had this super fun environment. We had the love of skiing from when we were little.

"They taught me to live the day with total passion. That's so much of my identity. That's what I've been telling people today. Look what you can do if you get into sport.

"You know, society is bombarded with trash on television and all this media stuff about image. If you can somehow aspire to be more than just the images on music television, wouldn't that be great?"

She is on a roll, living the moment, aware her life won't ever be the same again. Forever she will be, Chandra Crawford, Olympic champ.

But the real celebration, taking the medal home, showing to her supporters in Canmore, Alta., sharing it friends, will have to wait. There still are races on the World Cup circuit. She won't be home until March 20.

"That's what I'm looking forward to," she said. She already had thought about what it would be like to go home a gold medallist, dreamt about it, just not for these Olympics.

"I kept thinking I'm going to win a gold medal in 2010. That was my life plan."

The plan came to fruition four years early in the cross country sprint event.

"I wanted to be like Sara (Renner). Her attitude is always, 'Cut the crap and just go for it.' That's what I did and look what happened?"

And now, who knows what awaits her?

Some enterprising company, looking for a fresh face, a sharp mind and terrific spokesperson may want to sign her up. It's worth considering.

"I guess my dad is my agent," she answered when asked if she had representation. "I'm going to put it out there. I'm interested in not driving my '88 Dodge Caravan anymore. I can't take it on the winter roads and highways anymore. I don't know what's going to happen from here.

"But whatever it is, I look forward to it."







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