Chandra Crawford had huge ski boots to fill when she somehow unexpectedly made it to the Canadian Olympic Team barely three months prior to the 2006 Olympic Games.
The top guns, Beckie Scott and Sara Renner, were still there but the time had come to prepare the Next Generation and at 22 years old, that’s exactly what Chandra was, a promising athlete for the future. Little did they know.
Chandra Crawford was young, full of passion, full of love and… full of guts. She was going to compete alongside her heroes and she was in awe. But that was not going to keep her from being who she was, passionate and gutsy.
Already, the year before, she had decided it was time for girls to stand up and gain more fitness and self confidence through sports.
«I felt there was a real need, she says. There was a declining health in the population. Teenage girls are six times more likely (than boys) to drop out of sports.»
Chandra needed to share the benefits of sports. Bucket loads of passion pouring out of her heart. Fast and Female was born. Gutsy move from a then little known athlete.
Chandra was determined to succeed and she looked up to her role models Beckie and Sara.
«What a huge impact they’ve had on my life personally, and on the fact that Fast and Female exists today.
(Sara Renner and Chandra Crawford)
«There they were, they had Canada (printed) in the back of their jackets, cool jackets.
«And also their nude calendar was a huge factor. They needed funding. It was so tasteful, showing their healthy bodies. It was so brave of them. They were strong and beautiful.
«I was a teenager, looking at what I wanted to do with my life. I credit them with the tone that was set to our generation.»
Beckie did things her way. She did the canadian team training camps and all but otherwise she was living and training remotely at her home in Bend, Oregon. And her career was a success. On the race course, her starts were stunning. At the sound of the start-gun, she’d jump out like Secretariat at the Kentucky Derby. You need a huge amount of confidence (and fitness) to think you’ll tire out the rest of the field and stay upfront to the finish.
I’m strong too, thought Chandra. I’ll learn to do just like Beckie.
So came the 2006 Olympic sprint final. They were four, two of them Canadians. All eyes were turned on the great Beckie Scott. And a couple of them on the so called future of the Canadian team, young Chandrrra Crrrawforrrd, as presented by the italian announcer. Take position… set… There was the start-gun shot, and there was young Chandrrra Crrrawforrrd jumping out in front of the pack. Bold move… She caught her breath for a moment, let the other girls fill the gap and then brutally put the hammer down. It left them all breathless. She powered herself to the finish line like a rocket. She didn’t even turn her head when she raised her arms.
«Well, I didn’t know if they were there! Chandra remembers. My eyes were locked on the finish line. All I could hear was the kettle boiling. That’s what I remember, the kettle boiling!»
Beckie finished fourth.
The world was stunned and Chandra Crawford was on the map. The map of champions. The map of heroes.
(You can watch the race here. If your heart doesn’t start pounding, you’re not a human being.)
(Young Cendrine Browne, 15, in the blue jacket at the right of her idol Chandra Crawford on September 5th, 2010)
Years went by with their collection of medals and podiums and here we are in 2013, just months away from the 2014 Olympic Games. Beckie and Sara are into happy retirement. Chandra is now the veteran of the women’s national team and an inspiration to the young talent.
Some of the most promising juniors with the Canadian National Team train at the Centre national d’entraînement Pierre Harvey (CNEPH) at mont Ste-Anne close to Quebec City. Cendrine Browne, Frédérique Vézina and Anne-Marie Comeau are part of the Next Generation and they look up to Chandra in the same fashion.
«Chandra was my idol when I got into skiing, says Cendrine. I attended one of her Fast and Female events and that was so motivating! To see an Olympian come tell us about her life path was simply extraordinary for me.
«Plus she was smiling all the time! I was so impressed, she always had this great smile.»
That was on September 5th, 2010 in Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, QC. Cendrine was 15 years old and only in her second year as a competitive skier. That very day, Chandra Crawford changed her life.
«Chandra was the first one to ever tell me to dream big, and since that day, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And now I’m trying to pass that message along to the most people possible, because dreaming big, believing in yourself and setting high standards is the key to everything! She was right!»
So let’s see. That year, 2010-11, Cendrine finished top Quebec skier in the overall standings.
The following season, she placed 6th at Nationals in both skate sprint and 10 km skate.
That’s when she got the call from the CNEPH. Last season, her first with the CNEPH, she placed an amazing 15th in the 5 km skate at the World Junior Championships.
And last April, she was upgraded to the National Senior Development Team. Now Cendrine will be training alongside her idol! Just like Chandra with Sara and Beckie back in 2005-06.
«At my first Nationals in Yukon, I was heading for my cool down and I arrived at the course at the same time than her, Cendrine again recalls. She started talking to me like she’d known me forever! She was even presenting me to the other skiers as her friend. I was so impressed and flattered! That evening I told my mom on Skype: I did my cool down with CHANDRA CRAWFORD!!!!!»
And now they’re teammates.
(Cendrine and Chandra last December at mont Ste-Anne)
Regular training with Chandra won’t happen before November, though. As Skipresse (now called Skiplus) reported back in April, Chandra decided to decline her nomination to the Canadian Team and organize her own training program towards Sochi. Another gutsy decision that she later explained to FasterSkier.
In the process, she loses her carding with Sport Canada, a much needed financial help from the federal government. «Financially it’s disastrous!», says Chandra. But she insists she will be back with the World Cup team in the fall. «Cross Country Canada has invested millions of dollars in me. It’s only five months on my own.
«My coach (Peter Larsson) says training for x-c skiing is not complicated, but it’s very hard. I need to find the right amount of work and rest. How fit I can get between now and the Games.»
Work and rest. Give and take. Balance. That’s what Chandra has been concentrating on in the last few months. She had worked but hadn’t rested. She gave but took so little. Chandra gave everything into training, gave to her sport, gave to Fast and Female, gave to the media, gave to her fans, gave into a relationship, she gave and gave and gave until last February, her body and her mind called it quits. Au revoir.
If there is such a thing as a good time for a burnout, that would be it. She went back home to Canmore and took time to calm down. To stop and smell the roses. Be hugged. Be told how much she was loved by the people who count the most in her life.
Now she is bouncing back. She is recharging her batteries and the best way to get the whole package ready, to build a peak for Performance Day next February is to lay her own path. By November Chandra Crawford will be ready for the World. She’ll be pumped up, strong, confident and dedicated to her sport and her national team like she’s always been.
On February 11th 2014, on the Sochi race course, the whole nation will be behind Chandra. Her family and friends and all of the young girls she has now been an inspiration to for years. Amongst all of those people, three young racers, the Next Generation of the women’s National Team, will have their hearts glued to her’s, their legs pushing with her’s. Cendrine, Frédérique and Anne-Marie will breathe with her on every stride.
Chandra will feel all of that somewhere inside. She will be empowered by it all. But her focus will keep her in her own zone. Her eyes will be locked on the finish line. She will be racing her own way, the Chandra way. With passion and love.
And a heart full of guts.