Canmore's Chandra Crawford had earned the reputation as one of the top sprinters in the sport of cross-country skiing, but an ankle injury in 2009 proved to be a long setback for the 27-year-old.
However, last weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany she showed how far she's come since she was forced to sit on the sidelines in her pre-Olympic year.
It started in the 1.2 km women's freestyle sprint event, where she placed fourth in the qualifer. She followed up by placing eighth overall - her best World Cup result in almost two years.
"That result absolutely feels great," she said. "It has been a long time since I've been in the top 10. For me it has been years of battling through injuries and going through coaches, and now that everything is getting back to normal it feels great to be able to start to perform again."
Crawford's career includes a sprint gold medal from the 2006 Olympics, six World Cup medals and two World Cup titles.
"It was really nice to hear someone say on the street today in their European accent, 'Chandra is back,' and I'm starting to feel that way myself," she said. "The goal this year is to win at World Championships. I had a fast qualifier today. I nearly made it to the final, and between now and February that will be the goal... This is a huge confidence boost for me."
The win went to Arianna Follis of Italy, followed by American skier Kikkan Randall and Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia. Crawford's teammate Daria Gaiazova was 27 th .
The confidence boost showed the next day, as Crawford and Gaiazova teamed up to place third in the team sprint event behind Italy and Norway, overcoming wet and warm conditions. Although she's been knocking on the door, this was Gaiazova's first trip to the podium.
"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."
Crawford was also ecstatic. "Daria and I had a total blast out there," she said.
"Yesterday, I officially qualified for the World Championships and I treated today as my first day of preparation for the World Championships."
Adding to the chaos, the Canadian team's struggles with airlines losing their luggage continued into another year. The night before the sprint the team converged in a hotel room to share out the clothing that made it through to Germany.
The men's team also participated, although the top stars opted to skip the event. Stefan Kuhn was the top Canadian sprinter, 33 rd . He was followed by Len Valjas in 34 th place. Emil Joensson of Sweden took the gold, followed by Fulvia Scola of Italy and Oeystein Pettersen of Norway.
In the team sprint it was Norway, Sweden and Italy on the podium, while Canada was 20th.
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