When Norway's Vibeke Skofterud recently announced she was shutting down for the season because she was too tired, too worn out to continue cross-country skiing, something resonated within Chandra Crawford.
Skofterud had been part of Norway's 4x5-kilometre relay team that won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and wanted time off to be at her absolute best a year from now at the Sochi Games in Russia. Crawford, who shocked the world by winning gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics, was also feeling the demands of her sport and figured: "If it's okay for Skofterud to walk away, it's okay for me, too."
On Tuesday, Cross Country Canada revealed the 29-year-old Crawford would miss the balance of the 2012-13 season to recuperate for Sochi, which will stage the skate-style sprint event she won in Turin. The decision was made in consultation with the Canadian team coaches and staff. Crawford raced on the Olympic track in Sochi, then flew home to Canmore, Alta.
She will miss the 2013 world Nordic championships in Val de Fiemme, Italy, set for later this month, but felt it was something she had to do.
"Reading Vibeke's [news] release, she talked about being physically and mentally burned out, her body not performing the way she wanted it," Crawford explained. "Those words really stuck with me … I'm not going to regret this. I feel I'm going to gain from it in mindfulness and calm. I'm just so tired right now."
Crawford has been dealing with a variety of matters, on and off the trails. Last year, her mother, Louise, was diagnosed with breast cancer and hospitalized. Crawford said her mom is doing well now, but it was a stressful time for the family.
Crawford has also put a lot of energy into the Fast and Female program designed to inspire girls to get into sports and stick with them. And yet, Crawford acknowledged it wasn't one thing – even a so-so race result – that convinced her she had to shut down; it was more a recognition she needed a break from skiing.
"For 13 years, I've been doing exactly this – building to secure my goals, pushing myself beyond my capacities. Even the off-season – four weeks in April – are spent around training," she said. "That's what athletes do, but it's extremely exhausting."
CCC high-performance director Tom Holland said he and the organization supported Crawford adding: "Sometimes, the demands on an athlete's body are just simply too much, and the most effective form of preparation is to take a short break."
Crawford's best placing this season was sixth in a skate sprint World Cup race on her home track in Canmore. That result met the Olympic criteria. Had she still be chasing that, she would have likely continued to race.
Instead, her immediate plans are relaxation, yoga and some free skiing at a different pace.