Cross-country skiers reap rewards of hard work

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:10 PM ET

Beckie Scott and Sara Renner are now the faces of cross-country skiing in Canada.

Chandra Crawford and Milaine Theriault are pushing to get there.

Crawford, 22, and Theriault, 33, made the final in Canmore's World Cup team sprint last month, finishing ninth, a big accomplishment against a very strong field.

But just being competitive against the best in the world is no easy feat and Crawford, who hails from Canmore, is well aware of how hard it is to reach the top.

"I can remember when I first went for a run with Sara five years ago and my mind was just swimming with questions to ask her," said Crawford, who also enjoyed her best personal finish on the World Cup circuit in Vernon -- a 10th place result in a sprint event.

"So I asked her how she got so good in the last couple of years and she said, '10 years of hard work started to pay off.' "

That's the bottom line in a sport where endurance and mental toughness are the difference between winning and losing, where it takes years and years of training to get to a high level of competition.

Now Crawford is starting to see the fruits of her labour, which includes a berth on Canada's Olympic team in Turin, Italy, in February, the first time she's made an Olympic squad.

"I wanted to get to the Olympics so bad. The piano is off my back," said Crawford with a smile. "But, at the same time, I've worked through a lot of nervous emotions (before the Canmore World Cup).

"I was so nervous I could barely ski but I worked through it and by the time the real races came, I was relaxed enough to put it together."

Meanwhile, Theriault, a 12-year national team veteran, returned to the sport after battling a potentially career-ending back injury in July and she didn't think she'd be ready for the Vernon and Canmore World Cups.

"I didn't get back on my skis until November but, amazingly, I recovered pretty well, so it was amazing to be in that (team sprint)," said the two-time Olympian from St. Quentin, N.B., who balances her hectic racing and training schedule with bringing up her two-year-old son.

For cross-country skiing in Canada, that has surely been the cases so far this season, where the skiers have enjoyed their best ever results.

The Canadian team travels to Europe on Monday for three World Cup stops before heading to Italy for the Olympics, which run from Feb. 10-26.


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