By Andrew Mitchell
In the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake, Beckie Scott became the first Canadian to ever win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing, earning a bronze in the 5K Sprint. Over the next few months it was revealed that the gold and silver medal winners, Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina, tested positive for the same performance enhancing substance, and Scott was eventually presented with the gold medal.
She took some time off racing after that moment, and was not sure she was even going to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics until she made the decision last winter. If anything, she has emerged from her break even stronger than before
At the World Cup competition at Sovereign Lake outside of Vernon this past weekend Scott dominated in the women’s events. She was on the podium twice in two races, winning silver and gold against an Olympic-calibre field.
In the first race, the women’s 15K Pursuit, Scott took the silver medal in front of thousands of fans.
“I felt so loose and comfortable all week, and I just wanted to perform really well today,” said Scott. “I am so excited, and to do this in front of my friends and family who have come here to watch is perfect.”
Scott held the lead into the final lap, when World Cup leader Marit Bjoergen of Norway overtook her in the dash to the finish line. Scott was second by only three tenths of a second.
Hilde Pederson of Norway was third, more than two seconds back of Scott.
Sara Renner, Scott’s training partner in Canmore, also had a good day, finishing in 12 th place out of almost 60 racers.
The men also did well as Russian immigrant Ivan Babikov of Canmore finished 14 th in his first World Cup race, the 30K Pursuit.
The podium went to three German skiers, with Tobias Angerer first, Axel Teichmann second and Andreas Schluetter third.
On the following day Scott earned her first ever World Cup gold medal in the 1.3K Sprint. Renner also earned her first World Cup medal, claiming the bronze medal behind Claudia Kuenzel of Germany, while Chandra Crawford of Canmore claimed her first World Cup top-10 result, finishing 10 th . Cross Country Canada called it Canada’s best day ever in cross-country skiing.
“I am feeling the strongest I ever have in my career, and I have trained so hard throughout the summer preparing for these races,” said Scott. “I was just curious to see where I stood against some international competition.”
Renner joked that her whole strategy was to stay close to Scott.
The men didn’t have as much to boast about, but three Canadians did qualify for the finals, Phil Widmer of Banff, Sean Crooks of Thunder Bay and Drew Goldsack of Red Deer finished 25 th , 26 th and 28 th respectively.
This was the first time in over a decade that a World Cup cross-country event has been held in Canada. Scott and Renner have been lobbying for home events for more than three years, and finally got more than their wish — after the Sovereign Lake competition, there is another World Cup this weekend in Canmore.