by Chris Dornan
January 8, 2014, CANMORE, Alta. (ISN) – Chandra Crawford and Bob Thompson made the first move, winning the skate-ski sprint races at Cross Country Canada’s Olympic Trials in Canmore, Alta. on Wednesday.
Already pre-qualified to be nominated to compete at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the 30-year-old Crawford had a strong tune-up race before heading back onto the World Cup by leading the nation’s best around her home 1.3-kilometre sprint course at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
“To be able to put it all out there and charge your way to the finish line is what it is all about,” said Crawford. “It has been a huge effort this year for me to this point, and I’m excited with how today went. I just love racing and it is fun to win today.”
Hot on the back of the former Olympic champs skis was 22-year-old Heidi Widmer, of Banff, Alta. The fastest qualifier, Widmer positioned herself well heading into the final sprint race this weekend after finishing solid in second place.
“It sounds cheesy by when you have a dream you just put everything into chasing it,” said Widmer. “My skis were awesome today and this is the first major step towards booking a ticket to Sochi. I am really happy with how things went.”
Zina Kocher of Red Deer, Alta., who was recently named to her third Olympic Biathlon Team, is also trying to earn a spot on the cross-country ski squad in Sochi. Kocher, 31, held on with the top women at the Trials where she finish third.
In the men’s draw it was Bob Thompson, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who pulled off a huge upset. Qualifying in 18th spot on the challenging 1.5-kilometre sprint course, Thompson picked his way through the head-to-head heats with the top-30 athletes where he lined up against two of the heavy favourites – Jesse Cockney and Phil Widmer – in the final.
With all six athletes charging down the finishing stretch in a pack, Cockney and Widmer got tangled up which opened the door for Thompson to step onto the top step of the men’s podium.
Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., held on to second spot, while Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, rounded out the men’s podium in the bronze-medal position.
The Olympic Trials continue on Thursday at the Canmore Nordic Centre with the men’s and women’s classic-ski distance races.
Meanwhile, across the pond at IPC World Cup racing in Vuokatti, Finland, Mark Arendz led the Canadians in a middle-distance cross-country ski race. The Springton, P.E.I. native finished 11th at 27:32.1 in the men’s 10-kilometre classic-ski standing category.
“It was a tough race today. I found myself having to knock out the cobwebs after a few weeks off from racing,” said Arendz. “I felt pretty good but couldn’t transfer that into speed on the course. I’ve been working on my classic technique this year and I feel it improving. This was a good set up race for the biathlon events this weekend.”
Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev won the category with a time of 24:54.0.
Canada’s Chris Klebl also hit the start line on Wednesday. Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., placed 12th at 27:53.6 in the men’s 10-kilometre sit-ski race.
For complete IPC World Cup results, please visit http://www.vuokattievents.fi/event_schedule
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 58,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas,. Canadian Pacific and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
Complete Olympic Trials Results: www.zone4.ca
Top-Five Women’s Results:
1. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.; 2. Heidi Widmer, Banff, Alta.; 3. Zina Kocher, Red Deer, Alta.; 4. Andrea Dupont, Timmins, Ont.; 5. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse
Top-Five Men’s Results:
1. Bob Thompson, Thunder Bay, Ont.; 2. Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.; 3. Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse; 4. Julien Locke, Rossland, B.C.; 5. Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, Ont.