Renner ready to wrap up career

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — There is a three-year-old girl in Canmore, Alta., who is anxiously awaiting the conclusion of Saturday’s women’s 30-kilometre cross-country race.

And because of young Aria, so to is her mother, veteran Canadian Olympian Sara Renner.

A silver medallist in Turin four years ago, Renner is about to wrap up her Olympic career in this, her fourth Winter Games.

Along the way she’s seen the Canadian program evolve from a sport where merely finishing a race was a big deal for Canadian athletes, to one that can compete against some of the Nordic powerhouses.

And now at age 33, it’s time to leave and become a full-time mom.

“(Being a parent) has given me a lot of perspective,” said Renner, who is married to former alpine skier Thomas Grandi. “Sport is really important and I put a lot of effort into racing and preparing. But when I come home, I’m a mom and that’s really nice to be able to leave it all behind when you take off your ski boots.”

The aftermath of the 2006 Games were certainly eventful for Renner. Aria was born the year after — she just turned three earlier this month — but with the draw of competing in an Olympics in her home country was too much to resist for Renner, who decided to compete in these Games.

Paired with Dasha Gaiazova, Renner finished seventh in the team sprint event that she won her Turin medal with then partner Chandra Crawford.

Saturday, her Olympic career comes to a close in the more gruelling 30-km event.

“I’ve been thinking about it for four years,” Renner said when asked about the end of a competitive commitment that has lasted most of her adult life to this point. “I had to leave Aria one night and she didn’t really want me to leave.

“So I told her ‘In one week, we are going to look at tide pools and no more ski racing.’ And she said ‘that’s a good deal, Mom.’

“It’s time. It’s time for me to be with my family and I think that’s actually motivation for me for my last race.”

Along the way, Renner has been an inspiration to her younger teammates.

“I just cherish every day we have her on our team,” Gaiazova said. “It’s just an honour to race with her. She skis her heart out. I just hope I can take over from here and make our nation proud in the future.”

Renner will enter her final race as a decided long shot for a medal but is hoping the mild, rainy weather that is socking Whistler will increase her chances to go out with a bang.

“I hope it’s gnarly,” Renner said. “I hope it’s raining and snowing and all the girls are freaking out on the start line because I’ve skied in those conditions a lot around here.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

POLL