The question seems to catch Jack Crawford off-guard for a split second.
“The medal?” he asks, referring to the Olympic bronze that the Canadian won in Beijing in February in alpine combined.
In fact, the question was about “the medal”. Where does Crawford keep it?
“I don’t know. It’s with my parents. I don’t know. I wouldn’t really say the medal – it’s super cool. It means a lot to me. But the experience I think is more my speed.” he replies.
As it turns out, speed itself is also Crawford’s speed. The 25-year-old from Toronto excels in the two fastest disciplines in alpine skiing, the Super-G and the Downhill, and finished fifth in last year’s World Cup Total Score and 16th in the second.
Both disciplines will be tested at the 2022-23 season-opening World Cup in Lake Louise, Alta, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday. Live streaming of the entire event will be available on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports App and CBC Gem.
Crawford comes into the campaign with a host of new challenges, including a number at the front of the pack. It also means a target on his back after finishing fourth in the downhill and sixth in the Super-G at the Olympics, in addition to bronze in the Alpine Combined (which adds a downhill and a slalom together).
Always a competitor, Crawford said it’s downhill that is close to his heart in most of the three Olympic races.
“I put in a run that could have won the race and unfortunately time wasn’t on my side that day. So this one definitely hurts, definitely a bit, because when I think about my race number or do a lap differently, suddenly it’s a completely different day,” he said.
Still, Crawford said his goal in every race is to set a winable time — even if the result doesn’t follow. In a solitary sport like alpine skiing, the opponent is more likely to be the clock than other racers. Meanwhile, his eyes are on the World Championships in February and winning medals in vaunted hills like Kitzbuhel.
CLOCK | Crawford snatches silver at March’s World Championships:
Alpine Canada speed coach John Kucera, whose first World Cup win as an athlete came in the 2006 Lake Louise Super-G, said the next step for Crawford was consistency.
“Showing those kinds of performances at a high level that he was able to show on a more consistent basis right from the start during the Olympics and at the end of the year,” said Kucera. “And if he does that? Everything else will sort itself out.”
Crawford is helped by his early start number which is a result of his strong end to last year and brings him fresh snow and more predictable weather alongside other podium contenders. He set the fastest time in downhill training on Tuesday.
“When we’re dealing with a sport that has as many variables as we do and races are decided in hundredths of a second, all those things are important,” said Kucera.
“It’s a whole different kind of nerve,” Crawford explained. “If you start at the back, it’s still like you’re trying to get in. People don’t think like, ‘Oh, this guy deserves it.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, him could be good.’ Now it says: “He should be.'”
Between the bronze medal and the upgraded bib number, Crawford will certainly be viewed differently by his opponents. But he said the reality is still not quite there.
“I think it’s crazy. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. But I think I have a lot more that I think I’m capable of and I’m hoping to get a few more Olympics [bronze medal],” he said.
“It’s easy in our sport, there’s so many things you can win and that’s just a little tick but until there’s a gold one I think it’s going to just stare me in the face a little bit.”
end of line?
While the Lake Louise World Cup marks the start of the alpine ski season for some, it can also feel like it’s coming to an end.
Because the future of the event itself is in question. The women, who travel to Lake Louise a week after the men, do not have a World Cup in Canada on their agenda for the 2023/24 season. The men do, but the exact location is still ominously unknown.
“Hopefully it means a little bit more this year just because there will be more people and more friends. And it could be the last time. So exploit it,” Crawford said.
Kucera said the venue is important beyond his personal triumph at Lake Louise because so many Canadian skiers have cut their teeth there, from training to the lower-level NorAm circuit.
“[Lake Louise is] very picturesque and everyone always likes to come there.
“I don’t know where these things are [stand for] next year, but if this is the last, it sure is bittersweet. And hopefully we can perform well as a Canadian team,” said Kucera.
Other Canadian Competitors
Many remember Crawford’s bronze, but two other Canadians – Broderick Thompson and Brodie Seger – also finished eighth and ninth in the alpine combined.
Kucera said Thompson, now four years away from a serious knee injury, could be ready for a breakout. The 28-year-old from Whistler, BC, clinched his first World Cup podium last season with a Super-G bronze at Beaver Creek, Colorado.
“I don’t think he’s found consistency in what he can actually do and he hasn’t necessarily brought his best game to the World Cup yet,” said Kucera. “So I think he’s someone who, when you start putting together what we’ve seen in training, can be quite interesting.”
Seger, the 26-year-old North Vancouver, BC native who finished fourth in the Super-G at the 2021 World Championships, is also looking to join Crawford at the front of the pack.
“I think for me last year was a bit of a bad year, but [Seger] can be really dangerous,” said Kucera.
Jeffrey Read, Kyle Alexander, Trevor Philp and Sam Mulligan round out the Canadian contingent.
The live transmission of the descent begins on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET, followed by Super G races on both Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.