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TORINO: XC: Canada's Crawford notches win; American Randall a historic 9th

TORINO: XC: Canada’s Crawford notches win; American Randall a historic 9th{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – Chandra Crawford is about to become a household name back home.

The outgoing Canadian – with tiny pigtails peeking out from her hat – upstaged two of her better-known countrywomen and pulled off an upset in the women’s 1.1-kilometer sprint Wednesday, skating through the finish for Canada’s first cross-country gold medal of the Torino Games.

She only cared about a top-30 finish. She made Canada’s Olympic team only in November. She’s competed in just six World Cup races in her life.

Now, she’s an Olympic champion at age 22.

”Grazie,” – thank you – Crawford said with a smile when she sat down for her news conference, her father Glen standing in the back of the room filming the whole thing.

Crawford is hardly her country’s biggest star – until now staying out of the spotlight behind Beckie Scott and Sara Renner, silver medalists in the team sprint last Tuesday – but she is its future in the sport.

Renner and Scott are beginning to wrap up their careers. Renner watched Crawford win from a seat in the stands. Scott watched from 2.4 seconds behind.

”I’m very open to inspiration,” said Crawford, from Canmore, Alberta, the site of the 1988 Olympic cross-country races. ”Beckie and Sara motivated me and I’ve been fortunate to have a path forged by those two women.”

Crawford finished in 2 minutes, 12.3 seconds, seven-tenths of a second ahead of silver medalist Claudia Kuenzel of Germany. Russia’s Alena Sidko took the bronze, while Scott was fourth in the four-skier final.

Kuenzel took the lead on the first climb and overtook Crawford, but the Canadian quickly regained control.

”Usually I run out of energy by the final,” said Crawford, still gripping her gold with both hands after earlier bringing it up to her right eye to look through the hole in her new hardware. ”Today, I had plenty of energy.”

Scott, the fastest of the 66 skiers from the qualifying round, is not expected to ski Friday’s 30km in order to focus her attention on winning the overall World Cup title in her final season on the circuit. She is currently in third place, 45 points back of World Cup overall leader Marit Bjoergen of Norway.

World Cup sprint leader Anna Dahlberg and Swedish teammate Lina Andersson – who won the team sprint last week – were favorites, but Dahlberg was done after the semis and Andersson didn’t make it out of the quarterfinals.

Defending Olympic champion Julia Tchepalova of Russia, who won gold in the team relay Saturday, made an early exit in the quarterfinals. And Bjoergen, who has been ill for much of the Olympics after coming down with bronchitis last month, also failed to advance out of the quarterfinal rounds.

She may not stick around for Friday’s final women’s event, the 30 km skate.

”I really don’t want to do the 30 km and just want to go home,” Bjorgen said.

Lind finished the men’s race in 2:26.5 to beat silver medalist Roddy Darragon of France, who was six-tenths of a second back. Lind’s countryman, Thobias Fredriksson, took the bronze.

Three Italians reached the semifinals in the men’s race, with Cristian Zorzi advancing to the four-skier final and placing fourth. He was the anchor of Italy’s winning 4×10 relay team Sunday.

American Kikkan Randall made history Wednesday, placing ninth, the best all-time Olympic finish by any U.S. woman. Other U.S. finishes: Wendy Wagner in 35th and Lindsay Williams in 38th.

Randall powered her way through the morning qualifying rounds to place 10th. The top 30 racers moved on to the finals.

In the quarterfinals, which consisted of five heats of six skiers, Randall was second in her heat behind Scott. In the semis (two heats of five), she finished fourth in her heat, which included Kuenzel and Scott.

“I’m really excited about today, said an exhilarated Randall, who jumped out to an early lead in her final heat. “Yesterday, I wasn’t feeling so hot. After three races already I was a little unsure, but to come in here and ski well in the qualifying round, I felt so relaxed. I was hoping for a top 20 today and top 10 is just amazing. It really sets the stage for four years from now.”

Randall powered her way through the morning qualifying rounds to place tenth. The top 30 racers moved on to the finals.

In the quarterfinals, which consisted of five heats of six skiers, Randall was second in her heat behind Scott. In the semis (two heats of five), she finished fourth in her heat, which included Kuenzel and Scott.

“I had the inside line and had lots of speed,” said Randall of her final heat race. “Over the top of the hill, I had to slow down and tuck back into fifth. I tried to make another move on the last corner and just got shut out a little bit.”

The sprint event debuted at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where Tessa Benoit had the best U.S. finish in 38th.

Prior to Randall’s ninth, the best Olympic cross country finish by a U.S. woman was posted by Nina Kemppel, who was 15th in the 30k in 2002.

“I think our team is doing some really innovative things to put our sprinters toward the top,” said Randall. “It’s just fun to be part of a team that’s come up together. It’s a huge confidence booster and it’s great to be part of a team that’s moving up every race.”

- The Associated Press/USSA

Women’s sprint
Qualification

1. Beckie Scott, Canada, 2:12.45 (Q).
2. Arianna Follis, Italy, 2:12.90 (Q).
3. Lina Andersson, Sweden, 2:13.29 (Q).
4. Claudia Kuenzel, Germany, 2:13.64 (Q).
5. Alena Sidko, Russia, 2:14.54 (Q).
6. Petra Majdic, Slovenia, 2:14.62 (Q).
7. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, 2:14.83 (Q).
8. Chandra Crawford, Canada, 2:15.06 (Q).
9. Sara Renner, Canada, 2:15.37 (Q).
10. Kikkan Randall, United States, 2:15.63 (Q).
11. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland, 2:15.75 (Q).
12. Anna Dahlberg, Sweden, 2:15.91 (Q).
13. Ella Gjomle, Norway, 2:16.02 (Q).
14. Manuela Henkel, Germany, 2:16.04 (Q).
15. Madoka Natsumi, Japan, 2:16.30 (Q).
16. Viktoria Lopatina, Belarus, 2:16.36 (Q).
17. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 2:16.38 (Q).
18. Magda Genuin, Italy, 2:16.41 (Q).
19. Britta Norgren, Sweden, 2:16.43 (Q).
20. Olga Moskalenko-Rotcheva, Russia, 2:16.43 (Q).
21. Emelie Oehrstig, Sweden, 2:16.75 (Q).
22. Julia Tchepalova, Russia, 2:16.90 (Q).
23. Hilde G. Pedersen, Norway, 2:17.17 (Q).
24. Kati Venalainen, Finland, 2:17.29 (Q).
25. Natalia Matveeva, Russia, 2:17.73 (Q).
26. Laurence Rochat, Switzerland, 2:17.73 (Q).
27. Alena Prochazkova, Slovakia, 2:17.75 (Q).
28. Nobuko Fukuda, Japan, 2:17.82 (Q).
29. Olga Vasiljonok, Belarus, 2:18.12 (Q).
30. Stefanie Boehler, Germany, 2:18.14 (Q).
31. Nicole Fessel, Germany, 2:18.35.
32. Seraina Mischol, Switzerland, 2:18.83.
33. Barbara Moriggl, Italy, 2:19.12.
34. Aurelie Perrillat, France, 2:19.28.
35. Wendy Kay Wagner, United States, 2:19.71.
36. Vita Jakimchuk, Ukraine, 2:19.92.
37. Irina Terentjeva, Lithuania, 2:20.08.
38. Elena Kolomina, Kazakhstan, 2:20.28.
38. Lindsey Williams, United States, 2:20.28.
40. Vesna Fabjan, Slovenia, 2:20.34.
41. Tatjana Mannima, Estonia, 2:20.44.
42. Elina Hietamaki, Finland, 2:20.49.
43. Marina Malets Lisogor, Ukraine, 2:20.79.
44. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 2:21.19.
45. Natalya Issachenko, Kazakhstan, 2:21.22.
46. Oxana Jatskaja, Kazakhstan, 2:22.12.
47. Emilie Vina, France, 2:22.42.
47. Kaili Sirge, Estonia, 2:22.42.
49. Amanda Ammar, Canada, 2:22.78.
50. Eva Nyvltova, Czech Republic, 2:22.86.
51. Ekaterina Rudakova Bulauka, Belarus, 2:23.19.
52. Esther Bottomley, Australia, 2:23.55.
53. Katarina Garajova, Slovakia, 2:23.98.
54. Piret Pormeister, Estonia, 2:24.67.
55. Elodie Bourgeois Pin, France, 2:24.77.
56. Man Dandan, China, 2:25.16.
57. Song Bo, China, 2:27.07.
58. Maja Kezele, Croatia, 2:27.16.
59. Monika Gyorgy, Romania, 2:27.53.
60. Daria Starostina, Kazakh
stan, 2:27.58.
61. Jia Yuping, China, 2:30.03.
62. Elena Gorohova, Moldova, 2:31.61.
63. Kelime Aydin, Turkey, 2:33.33.
64. Lee Chae-won, South Korea, 2:35.47.
65. Liu Liming, China, 2:35.76.
66. Panagiota Tsakiri, Greece, 2:43.28.

Quarterfinals
Heat 1

1. Beckie Scott, Canada, 2:16.6 (Q).
2. Kikkan Randall, United States, 2:17.8 (Q).
3. Olga Moskalenko-Rotcheva, Russia, 2:18.4.
4. Stefanie Boehler, Germany, 2:18.5.
5. Emelie Oehrstig, Sweden, 2:19.9.
6. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland, 2:20.7.

Heat 2
1. Claudia Kuenzel, Germany, 2:15.5 (Q).
2. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, 2:16.2 (Q).
3. Manuela Henkel, Germany, 2:16.4.
4. Marit Bjoergen, Norway, 2:16.8.
5. Alena Prochazkova, Slovakia, 2:17.9.
6. Kati Venalainen, Finland, 2:18.1.

Heat 3
1. Alena Sidko, Russia, 2:17.7 (Q).
2. Petra Majdic, Slovenia, 2:17.7 (Q).
3. Laurence Rochat, Switzerland, 2:18.9.
4. Madoka Natsumi, Japan, 2:19.9.
5. Viktoria Lopatina, Belarus, 2:24.8.
6. Natalia Matveeva, Russia, 2:31.4.

Heat 4
1. Anna Dahlberg, Sweden, 2:14.3 (Q).
2. Arianna Follis, Italy, 2:14.7 (Q).
3. Britta Norgren, Sweden, 2:15.0.
4. Sara Renner, Canada, 2:15.6.
5. Olga Vasiljonok, Belarus, 2:16.6.
6. Julia Tchepalova, Russia, 2:16.6.

Heat 5
1. Chandra Crawford, Canada, 2:14.2 (Q).
2. Ella Gjomle, Norway, 2:15.7 (Q).
3. Lina Andersson, Sweden, 2:16.0.
4. Magda Genuin, Italy, 2:17.9.
5. Nobuko Fukuda, Japan, 2:18.2.
6. Hilde G. Pedersen, Norway, 2:19.1.

Semifinals
Heat 1

1. Claudia Kuenzel, Germany, 2:15.5 (A).
2. Beckie Scott, Canada, 2:15.8 (A).
3. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, 2:16.3 (B).
4. Petra Majdic, Slovenia, 2:18.7 (B).
5. Kikkan Randall, United States, 2:19.1.

Heat 2
1. Chandra Crawford, Canada, 2:13.4 (A).
2. Alena Sidko, Russia, 2:15.1 (A).
3. Arianna Follis, Italy, 2:16.2 (B).
4. Ella Gjomle, Norway, 2:16.4 (B).
5. Anna Dahlberg, Sweden, 2:18.9.

Final B
1. Virpi Kuitunen, Finland, 2:18.1.
2. Ella Gjomle, Norway, 2:18.2.
3. Arianna Follis, Italy, 2:20.3.
4. Petra Majdic, Slovenia, 2:21.5.

Final A
1. Chandra Crawford, Canada, 2:12.3.
2. Claudia Kuenzel, Germany, 2:13.0.
3. Alena Sidko, Russia, 2:13.2.
4. Beckie Scott, Canada, 2:14.7.

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