Canada’s Nordic Athletes Sprint into the Spotlight at Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Canmore

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December 16, 2012, CANMORE, Alta. (ISN) – Chandra Crawford dug deep, and jumped on a whole lot of luck, to lead the Canadians in their most successful day as a team on the World Cup this year.

One week removed from a disappointing sprint race, the hometown girl Crawford, who qualified third in the skate-ski sprint Saturday, led six Canadians into the head-to-head heats with the top-30 where she made it to the final round, and placed sixth.

“There was a lot of cowboy hats in the crowd today and I just told myself to get out of the gate, get one arm back like being on a bucking bronco and hang on for the ride,” said Crawford. I set a crazy pace <in the qualifier> and didn’t know if I could hang on, but I did.”

The 29-year-old Crawford, who won a sprint race at the Canmore Nordic Centre in 2008 – albeit on a different course – was quick all day on the 1.5-kilometre track which winds its way through the picturesque Alberta mountain landscape. With the top-two athletes moving on to the next round, Crawford lucked out not once, but twice, bringing the Canadian faithful to their feet. The Olympic champion crossed the finish line in third in her quarter-final heat, and fourth in the semifinal round, but kept her medal hopes alive as one of two lucky losers with the next two fastest times continuing on.

“That was really lucky today – it was so wild and shows you can never give up even if the pack pulls way from you,” said Crawford at the finish area. “It was the first time I made the top-30 this year and I am incredibly grateful to race at home. I needed the boost today.”

Crawford hit the start line for the final with thousands of hometown fans cheering her on, but it wasn’t to be as the colourful Canuck was eventually bucked off the women’s podium when she crossed the line in sixth place for her best result of the young season.

“I wanted to do so well at home. My heart was racing and I only slept like three hours last night,” added Crawford. “I don’t remember ever being hit by a wall of nervousness as I did today in the finals. I just wanted to throw down a good ski race because it is such a treat to race here.”

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla was crowned with the traditional Alberta World Cup cowboy hat on top of the women’s podium. World Cup sprint leader, Kikkan Randall of the United States, grabbed the silver medal, and Norway’s Celine Brun-Lie finished third.

It was another solid outing for Canada’s Perianne Jones. The 27-year-old Almonte, Ont. native had her best individual result with an 11th place finish. Jones, who teamed up with Crawford to win a bronze medal in the team sprint last year in Italy, advanced to the semifinal round where her day came to an end when she crossed the line sixth.

“I planned to bust off that big hill, but my legs were just full of lactic acid,” said Jones, who was 12th earlier this year in Finland. “You have to be in contention going up that hill to be able to win it on the downhill. I just didn’t have it, but I am happy to be in the top-12.”

Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., also qualified for the finals, but did not advance beyond theopening round, and finished 20th.

The success story didn’t end with the Canadian women as second-year member of the National Development squad, Jesse Cockney of Canmore, Alta. put down the hammer to qualify second and lead three Canadian men into the top-15.

Grabbing a rare opportunity to race on the World Cup, the four-time medallist at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, had the race of his life in front of his hometown crowd. After winning his quarter-final heat, the 23-year-old Cockney was forced to the sidelines after finishing fifth in a photo-finish during his semifinal triparound the Canmore layout to place ninth overall for a career-best result.

“It was great to be in my backyard and hear all of my friends cheer my name on that hill,” said Cockney. “It was an awesome experience that words just can’t describe. It felt great.”

While Cockney surprised the world, it was Canada’s three-time World Cup medallist Len Valjas who took the world on into the second round. The lanky 24-year-old Torontonian led midway through his semifinal heat, but was not able to hang on for a spot in the finals. A hair short of getting a shot for a run at the podium, Valjas grabbed his best result of the season as well, placing seventh.

“It was like a roller derby out there with lots of pushing and shoving,” said Valjas. “The course seems wide, but you almost need it a little wider on the downhill because you don’t want to get tangled up. I’m not sure that my tactics were right. I really tried to attack on the top of the hill, but didn’t plan to get in front. I looked back and realized everyone was still drafting me and didn’t have a big enough gap. I am super happy with this result though.”

Sweden’s Emil Joensson remained unbeaten on Canadian snow throughout his career, after sweeping the sprint races in Canada over the last two weeks. Norway’s Anders Gloeersen was second, while Russia’s Nikita Kriukov grabbed the bronze medal.

Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta., also qualified in the top-30, and finished an impressive 15th when he did not move beyond the opening round.

The World Cup continues on Sunday with the men’s and women’s skiathlon races, which can be viewed on and CBC Bold, December 16 beginning at 12:55 p.m. EST. Thefinals can also be seen on CBC TV from 5-6 p.m. EST. French coverage of Sunday’s races can be viewed on TVA. The women’s race will be aired from 12:50-1:55 p.m. EST, while the men’s skiathlon will be shown at 2:30-4:05 p.m. EST

Canada’s Mark Arendz took the country on his shoulders and delivered at the IPC World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland on Saturday. The 22-year-old skied to his 15th career IPCWorld Cup medal after winning the bronze in the men’s standing 7.5-kilomtre short distance biathlon race.

Arendz, who has finished second overall on the IPC World Cup biathlon standings in each of the last two years, missed one shot in two rounds of shooting to clock athird-place time of 20:59.1.

“It was a solid start to the biathlon season for me today, but there is definitely room for improvement,” said Arendz.

Arendz prevented a Russian sweep of the podium. Azat Karachurin missed one shot in his second and final round of shooting en route to winning the gold medal with a time of 20:14.4. Aleksandr Iaremchuk shot clean to post a bronze-medal time of 20:48.0.

Complete IPC World Cup Biathlon Results:

Complete Results:;event_id=31849

Top-5 Women

1. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR
2. Kikkan Randall, USA
3. Celine Brun-Lie, NOR
4. Denise Hermann, GER
5. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, NOR

Top-30 Canadian Results:

6. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.
11. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.
20. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Emil Joensson, SWE
2. Anders Gloeersen, NOR
3. Nikita Kriukov, RUS
4. Tim Tscharnke, GER
5. Andrew Newell, USA.

Top-30 Canadian Results:

7. Len Valjas, Toronto; 9. Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.; 15. Phil Widmer, Banff, Alta.