Home-country advantage can make a difference at Olympics - Metro US

Home-country advantage can make a difference at Olympics

For Canada’s Winter Olympians the migration from the mountains of Europe and the Nordic trails of Scandinavia is almost complete.

No longer the visitors, they’re making their way back to friendly territory.

In one week’s time a generation of athletes born in the land of ice and snow will finally get their chance to play a home game and race over familiar terrain with pride on the line.

Cross-country skier Chandra Crawford won’t apologize for feeling more than a little festive.

“As if having the Olympics here in Canada wasn’t already an incredible opportunity,” the 2006 gold medallist says from her native Canmore, Alberta. “The icing on the cake is having the last World Cup before the big Games here at home.”

Crawford and her teammates have proven in the past they know what it takes to succeed in their own backyard. Balance and peace of mind go hand in hand with eating food you’re used to and getting the rare chance to sleep in your own bed.

In cross-country skiing, Canadians are the underdogs — the exceptions to the rule being the big races that are occasionally staged in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains or the trails of interior British Columbia. At the 1988 Olympic site in Canmore, and at Silver Star near Kelowna, the Canucks tend to fight for the podium and sometimes win.

Olympic medallists Beckie Scott, Sara Renner and Chandra Crawford are a testament to that. It’s a history that fuels Crawford’s optimism as she tunes up for Vancouver/Whistler 2010.

“It’s making for amazing preparation,” she says. “Nowhere do I feel more grounded and supported and able to ski my best than in the stadium where I first tried cross-country skiing 25 years ago at the age of one.”

The place where dreams begin is often the same place where they are realized. It’s all about having the comfort to compete on your own terms.

“I find myself feeling that ‘ready-to-fly’ state of mind,” Crawford explains. “It’s thanks to all of the smiles and encouragement I get by just being here and knowing all of the volunteers by name.”

It must be so satisfying to race when everyone knows and cares about you. Maybe it’s the homecoming all Canadian athletes can count on at the most important time of their lives.

More from our Sister Sites