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Wide-eyed Crawford takes cross-country title

Some people are blessed with sporting greatness from a young age and among them is Chandra Crawford. As a youngster, she excelled at many sports – running, swimming, mountain biking and biathlon among them, but it was cross-country skiing that she eventually took up with the greatest vigour.

She dedicated herself to the sport from the age of 16, earning selection for the junior team and then, before much longer, for the senior squad. In 2006, shortly before the Olympic Games, she moved up to the senior international team.

Compared to many of her rival competitors, he experience was minimal. Prior to the Games, Crawford had taken part in six major international competitions and had never been placed higher than third. And yet the Olympic challenge clearly inspired her, just as it has so many athletes before.

She qualified with ease and then won her quarter-final race with a comfortable margin of a second and a half. So far, Crawford had barely been pushed and by now she could see that some of her most imposing rivals had been knocked out. The defending champion Yulia Chepalova failed to get through her quarter-final, and so did the reigning world champion Emelie Öhrstig.

In the semi-final, Crawford was again a dominant figure, beating the field by 1.7secs, and it was clear that she was the form athlete in the competition, albeit one with so little previous knowledge of this kind of top-flight competition.

In the final, Crawford faced a stiff challenge from Germany's Claudia Künzel, with little to choose between them over the first half of the race. But in the latter stages, Crawford took to the front, and stayed there. This time, her margin of victory was  just 0.7 seconds, but it was enough to secure a clear victory in her first Games. At the medal ceremony, her wholehearted singing to the Canadian national anthem brought her great popularity.

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