This is absolutely amazing. Daria and I had a total blast out there
Chandra Crawford and Daria Gaiazova sprinted Canada back onto the World Cup podium in cross-country skiing after joining forces to win the bronze medal in the skate-ski team sprint relay on Sunday in Duesseldorf, Germany.
The 27-year-old Crawford, who posted her best result in two years on Saturday in yesterday’s individual sprint when she was eighth, formed a dynamic duo with the 26-year-old Gaiazova in the team sprint through the streets of downtown Dusseldorf , which were packed with snow hauled in from a local ski hill, to finish third.
“This is absolutely amazing. Daria and I had a total blast out there,” said Crawford, who has battled through two seasons of ankle injuries since her last podium finish. “Yesterday I officially qualified for the World Championships and I treated today as my first day of preparation for the World Championships. It feels so good to be out there rubbing elbows with those World Cup skiers again.”
Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., and Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., had some luck on their side while sprinting down the finishing stretch along the banks of the Rhine River. Skiing into the last exchange, Gaiazova led the Canucks into fifth place where Crawford overtook the Russian duo early in the final lap to move into fourth towards the finish stretch where Slovenia’s anchor, Katja Visnar, planted a pole between her skis and crashed, opening the door to the podium for the Canadians.
“It was a crazy day with a lot of people around us crashing and breaking their poles,” said Gaiazova. “It was mass chaos but we stayed out of trouble. This is amazing.”
The Canadian duo fought through more than just rainy conditions and on-course chaos. After many plane delays, the athletes finally arrived in Dusseldorf from Finland, but unfortunately their luggage didn’t, forcing the team to work together to share clothing.
“We all got into a room and the support team had a bit of a yard sale where we picked pieces of clothing that had us ready to race,” said Crawford. “This is the new National Ski Team. We have great team of coaches. Our wax techs are amazing giving us fast skis. We have great therapists and new sports psychologists. We have made a lot of changes for the better and I feel like I’m getting back to my normal self more all the time.”
It was Crawford’s first World Cup medal in two years, and fourth World Cup podium finish in the eight-year career for the Canmore, Alta. resident. She also has two World Cup victories and one bronze medal finish to go along with her Olympic gold and a bronze in the opening day of the Tour de Ski in 2006. It was Gaiazova’s first-ever appearance on the international podium.
“We knew we trained properly to be able to do this and it now takes the monkey off our back,” said Gaiazova. “Now I believe we can go out there and ski with passion and not worry about that first podium.”
Contributed by Cross-Country Canada