Canada's men's alpine ski team is one of the youngest on the World Cup circuit, and Jack Crawford believes that will be a strength heading into the Beijing Olympics.
Crawford is one of five Canadian men competing in the alpine disciplines at the 2022 Winter Games, on tracks that will be unfamiliar to skiers from all nations. But because Canada's young skiers have spent the past few seasons learning World Cup courses together, Crawford thinks the Canadians will be ready to adapt to the new Beijing tracks.
"We're no strangers to having to go out there and figure out a new track," he said. "I think that's something that we're really be able to draw on, just having that sort of open mind and a creative mind as well to try to figure out these new tracks and figure out what's really crucial for making speed."
Crawford has had recent success at solving a new track, finishing fourth at the 2021 world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in the alpine combined event. The Torontonian had a combined time of two minutes 7.19 seconds, while Switzerland's Loic Meillard earned bronze in 2:06.98, a difference of just 0.21 seconds.
"It's hard to say what exactly went right," said Crawford with a laugh. "I just knew that from the start I wasn't that nervous. I didn't have the best start number which kind of set me at ease. I wasn't starting in the top 30 so it didn't seem as stressful"
Brodie Seger, Crawford's Olympic teammate, also earned a fourth-place finish at the 2021 worlds. Seger, from North Vancouver, B.C., finished the super-G event in 1:19.83 when bronze medallist Alexis Pinturault of France had a time of 1:19.79.
Austria's Vincent Kriechmayr won the super-G title in 1:19.41.
Like Crawford, Seger said that being one of the last skiers to go down the track was an advantage at the world championships because he could see what the hill had in store for him.
"Everybody showed up there for the first time much like we're going to be doing in Beijing," said Seger, who noted there had been no test events ahead of the world championships. "The first three guys in that race come out of the gate and they all screw up that turn and blow out of the course.
"So everybody who's watching on TV and in hospitality or whatever is watching this like 'Holy crap. What's going on?' They said this is going to be insanely difficult."
Just as they had to adapt at Cortina d’Ampezzo, observing how other skiers handle the tracks at Xiaohaituo Alpine Skiing Field and learning from their runs will be an important skill at the Beijing Olympics, said Seger.
"I think you have to come with an open mind and be ready to maybe be humbled a little bit," said Seger, who admits he can sometimes overanalyze a track. "You have to take the time to figure it out.
"What are the key areas in the course that are going to translate to making speed?"
Crawford and Seger will be joined on the mountain by Calgary's Trevor Philp, Erik Read of Canmore, Alta., and Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C.
Competition in men's alpine events begins on Feb. 6 with the downhill discipline. Super-G will be on Feb. 8 for the men, the combined event is on Feb. 10, giant slalom is scheduled for Feb. 13, and slalom will be on Feb. 16.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2022.