Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) alumnus Jack Crawford was part of two fairly significant Alpine Canada announcements in the past few days.
The 20-year-old was named to Canada's contingent at the Junior World Ski Championships in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23.
But less than a week later, Crawford was called up to the big time, as he'll be heading to PyeongChang, South Korea as part of Canada's Olympic team.
"Big change to the story," he said. "I'm going to Korea next week."
Crawford will join WMSC alumni Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Broderick Thompson on the team. Osborne-Paradis will be attending his fourth Games while, like Crawford, Thompson will be making his debut. Crawford said he's been tapped for the Alpine combined and one more discipline while Thompson expects to race the Alpine combined and downhill.
Crawford, who lists both Whistler and Toronto as his hometowns, had some mixed emotions when he was named to the team. Qualifying for the Olympics was on his radar, but admittedly as a "secondary option" and he'll miss out on some events that would have helped boost his FIS positioning and set him up well in the long run. But once Crawford came to realize he had achieved a childhood dream so early in his career, he came to appreciate the opportunity much more.
"At first, it was a little overwhelming so I didn't really take it that well, but over the last little while, it's kind of sunk in and I'm super excited to go and race and get the chance to represent our country," he said. "There's a lot of season left, but there's a lot that I'm going to miss... I'm no longer going to my last year of World Juniors. I'm also missing a few of the NorAm tour races, which are pretty big for my career further down the road.
"It was a lot to take in because if you look at the bigger picture, it's hard to let it sink in as part of your ski season, especially at 20 years old."
Crawford found out he made the team only shortly before the list was revealed. He competed in Europe for the past month, finishing 38th in the Kitzbuhel, Austria downhill in his first World Cup race of the season and posting solid results in European Cup and FIS action.
Thompson, meanwhile, had met the Olympic qualifying criteria after his first-ever World Cup top-10 finish in Bormio, Italy on Dec. 29. But in a season where he's made a point of trying not to look too far ahead while paying attention to his process, he didn't focus much on the Games until the official announcement.
"I finally accepted it when I finished my last downhill in Garmisch," he said. "We have so much going on with our World Cup races that it was kind of on the backburner for a little while."
With four top-30 finishes on the World Cup circuit this season, Thompson feels confident that he'll hold his own at the Olympics.
"I feel strong and hopefully I can be even better," he said.
In addition to Osborne-Paradis, Montreal's Erik Guay was set to serve as a Canadian elder statesman, but bowed out of the Games on Jan. 31 because of nagging back problems.
"The Olympic Games, being every four years, you don't get many of them in your career. Even though they're veterans, even though it's their fourth one, I feel like they're still going to be learning stuff as well as I am," Crawford said. "The biggest thing is taking as much from them as possible so at the next Olympics, I'm a little bit more ready."
Thompson, meanwhile, credited Osborne-Paradis for helping him get ready for his first Games, noting the additional minute complications associated with the Olympics which has stringent rules on everything from clothes to social media.
"You have different regulations for clothing, so you get a whole new wardrobe for the races," he said. "The day we land, there are still six more hours until we actually get to where we're staying because of all the security and our outfitting.
"The racing, I think, is probably the most similar thing to what you normally deal with. You're skiing, you're doing what you've been doing all season. It's the stuff outside the fences that is what you have to learn to deal with."
Three WMSC alums to compete at World Juniors
While Crawford's ascension will leave WMSC one rep short, there are still three athletes taking in the beauty of Davos, Switzerland.
Stefanie Fleckenstein, Cameron Alexander and Riley Seger are all on tap to compete.
Fleckenstein got a start on Jan. 30, but did not finish the giant slalom. After over two weeks without race action and limited training because of weather-related cancellations, Fleckenstein feels confident she'll shake off the rust and find her form in her third time at the event.
"It was kind of difficult today to get back into the racing mentality. We have another five days of racing so I'll get my opportunities," she said on Jan. 30. "I'm excited for the speed events at the end, but these speed events are pretty fun, too."
Individually, Fleckenstein has a top result of 14th at World Juniors, set in last year's Alpine combined. But she was part of the crew that took gold in the team event, which she's looking forward to racing again.
"The whole team is excited for that this year. We unfortunately will not have Jack Crawford or Ali Nullmeyer," she said. "It's a new team, so we'll see."
Fleckenstein praised the Swiss resort and is eager to race there over the coming days.
"The venue is unbelievable," she said. "It's amazing. There are mountains everywhere.
"They have lots of snow here. They've done a really good job of maintaining the slopes."
Seger has enjoyed some strong showings on the NorAm Cup circuit this season, but has also suffered a few more DNFs than he'd like.
"I've had a couple ups and downs. I've had a couple highlights and big performances, a couple crashes here and there," Seger said. "For the most part, the skiing has been good, I've just got to put it together, top to bottom, on race day."
Alexander, meanwhile, has been all over the world this season, starting with races in Chile in the fall before returning to North America and hopping over the pond to Europe. He hit the super-G podium at Austria's Junior National Championships while also taking seventh in the giant slalom. He, too, has crashed out a fair bit, however.
"For me, it's been the same thing as Riley with ups and downs, some good races, some bad, but a lot of stuff that I can build on," he said. "I'm working on my mental approach and when things go bad, not let it get to me. I build on the things I've done well and look at the positives when things haven't gone well."
Seger had a top finish of 13th in the super-G last year in Sweden and said the team as a whole is striving for a little more hardware this time.
"We all had a few too many fourth places last year, so we're going back hungry and we all know what it's going to take to get on that podium," Seger said.