Rosanna Crawford will return to Whistler this week for the first time since the Olympics and might be feeling even more pressure than when she competed here during the Games.
Crawford swept the women’s races at last year’s nationals in Quebec and will be one of the biggest names in the field at the 2013 North American and Canadian Biathlon Championships, which get underway on Friday (March 15).
The younger sister of Olympic cross-country skiing gold medallist Chandra Crawford still has fond memories of her first Games experience in the Callaghan Valley three years ago.
“It was just so incredible, the crowds and the atmosphere. Everyone was just so excited to be there,” said Crawford. “It’s hard to put into words the feeling that we had at a home Olympics.”
However, Crawford was a 21-year-old with little experience at the top level when she made her Olympic debut in the Callaghan Valley three years ago.
“The Olympics for me, I was a first-year senior, I hadn’t really done much racing on the World Cup … so I had no real expectations for how I was going to place there,” said the Canmore, Alta, native. “I feel like the pressure for me wasn’t quite as great as if you were going into the Olympics knowing you had the potential to be in the top 30 or top 15.”
Now, she’s coming off a season that included some excellent results, including a personal-best 17th-place finish in the individual race at last month’s world championships in Czech Republic.
So the expectations are a little different for her at Whistler Olympic Park this time.
“Definitely, my goal is always to be on the podium when it comes to these races,” said Crawford. “There’s maybe more pressure for these races than for World Cup races, because now you’re racing against people who maybe didn’t make the World Cup team and you want to prove that, ‘Yep, I did deserve to be on the World Cup.’
“I feel like that’s a little bit of pressure when you come back for these races.”
Despite the great world championship result, plus a career-best 12th-place finish in a World Cup sprint in December, Crawford said it’s been a season of highs and lows.
“The season started off really well for me, and then my ski speed took a bit of a hiccup after Christmas,” she said. “Then things finally got on track again by the end of world champs when I had a really good individual race there. Then I got sick again. So it’s been a weird season for me — up and down like that.”
Crawford said her ski speed still isn’t quite where she’d like it to be heading into nationals, which run until March 20 as part of the Sea to Sky Nordic Festival, but she’s looking forward to a change of pace, racing against homegrown talent.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting back to the basics and just having a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s kind of nice not feeling that pressure of going up against the best in the world.”
Crawford said she might extend her stay in Whistler beyond biathlon nationals and race without a rifle the following week.
“Right now, I’m thinking about staying for a couple of the cross-country races,” she said, as the Haywood Ski Nationals officially start on March 22.
Visit www.festival.callaghanwintersportsclub.ca for full festival details and see our special pullout section in this week’s issue for more event coverage.