Canada’s Rosanna Crawford digging deep in her final biathlon season

CANMORE, Alta. — Rosanna Crawford’s inspiration as her biathlon career winds down is the lyrics to RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk.”

“If I fly, or if I fall, at least I can say I gave it all,” has been her mantra in a swan-song season that has yet to produce the results she seeks.

The three-time Olympian decided to race one more year to build on breakthroughs of the 2017-18 season, in which she stood on a World Cup podium for the first time in her career.

Crawford’s bronze in a 15-kilometre race just over a year ago in Ruhpolding, Germany, was the first World Cup biathlon medal by a Canadian woman since Zina Kocher’s bronze in 2006.

A last, and rare, chance to race in her hometown of Canmore, Alta., this week was added incentive to keep skiing and shooting a little longer.

An off-season of injury and illness made for tough racing this winter, however, as she’s struggled to crack the top 20.

“It’s not what I was expecting when I decided to do one more year,” Crawford said prior to finishing 29th in Thursday’s 12.5k in Canmore. “It’s been tough mentally.

“Just this winter, it’s been hard to have a good ski day and a good shooting day come together at the same time.

“But I’ve just been so lucky to live this life, so when I start getting into that downward spiral of ‘woe is me’ I remember I’m skiing for my job right now and that’s not going to be the case in a month in a half.”

Prior to Thursday’s race, the 30-year-old had been questioning whether she made the right decision to extend her career.

Buoyed by cheers from her hometown, Crawford was feeling more optimistic after hitting 18 of 20 targets.

“I’m really happy to hit 18-for-20,” she said. “Our skis were amazing. My ski speed really didn’t reflect how great the skis were.

“When I was about to start and everyone was cheering for me I got a few tears in my eyes. It was so special.”

The last biathlon World Cup in Canmore was in 2016, which was the sport’s largest event at the Nordic Centre after the 1988 Winter Olympics for which it was built.

Calgary’s Christian Gow was the top Canadian on Thursday finishing a career-best 10th in the men’s 15k.

“I’m so pleasantly surprised and happy with how it went,” the 25-year-old said. “Every part of the course, there were people out cheering for me and that was a really fun and cool experience.

“We just don’t get that in Europe. It was really motivating.”

The Norwegians had the right skis for the crisp, cold conditions claiming men’s and women’s gold and putting three men in the top four.

Overall World Cup leader Johannes Thingnes Boe hit all 20 targets and crossed the line in 35 minutes, 27.9 seconds for the win.

Teammate Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen was second, Russia’s Alexander Loginov third and Norway’s Lars Helge Birkeland fourth.

Gow missed one target and finished just over three minutes back of Boe.

Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff compensated for a missed target with fast skis to take the women’s race in 35:47.9 ahead of runner-up Marketa Davidova of the Czech Republic and Italian bronze medallist Lisa Vittozzi, who both shot clean.

Thursday’s races were shortened in deference to windchill making temperatures feel close to minus-16.

Relays are scheduled for Friday and the men’s and women’s mass starts for Saturday. Saturday’s predicted high of minus-25 could delay those races until Sunday or cancel them outright.

Crawford fell while mountain biking in the off-season and required intravenous antibiotics for infected wounds.

But a major setback was contracting Giardiasis, otherwise known as “beaver fever”, in late summer. Crawford thinks she ingested the parasite while swimming in a river during a training camp in Quebec.

“That’s the only body of water that fits the timeline of when I started to show symptoms,” she said. “I lost six kilos and a month of training.”

With the world championship March 7-17 in Oestersund, Sweden, and three World Cups remaining this season after Canmore, Crawford intends to soldier on.

“It’s important for me to finish out the season,” she said. “I’m going to do whatever I can and really enjoy my last time in Oestersund. I’ll just enjoy every second of it.”

Then she and Canadian teammate Brendan Green of Hay River, N.W.T., are getting married Aug. 24.

Crawford wants to worth with both humans and canines in her next career as both a personal fitness instructor and a dog trainer.

“I’m 30 years old and have been on the national team for 12 years, so I’ll find out who is Rosanna the non-athlete,” she said. “It’ll be an interesting journey.”

She has guidance on that journey from older sister Chandra Crawford, an Olympic gold medallist in cross-country skiing who retired in 2014.

“Chandra has always been my biggest role model for my entire life and somebody who I know is always there for me no matter what stage I’m at in my life, so I feel really lucky to have her,” Rosanna said.

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