Hall of Famer
Born into a mountain life, Sara Renner’s accomplishments on the world’s largest stages of competitive cross country ski racing are matched only by her desire for a more connected-to-nature world.
As the first Canadian and female North American to win a World Championship medal in the sport of cross country skiing, when she earned a bronze in the individual sprint in 2005, Sara’s international successes continued; ultimately claiming five World Cup medals as well as a silver medal at the 2006 Torino Olympic Games. Three of the five World Cup medals came on home snow (Canmore, Alberta and Vernon, BC) and competed in 141 World Cup races.
And perhaps Sara’s most memorable – and recognizable – moment came from the 2006 Winter Olympics when Norwegian coach Bjornar Haakensmoen gave her a ski pole to replace one that had been accidentally broken by one of the other competitors during the race and Team Canada went on to finish second while the Norwegian team settled for fourth, just off the podium.
“Oddly enough I had never broken a pole in a ski race,” the four-time Olympian explained. “Beckie and I were on fire and clear medal favourites so when I felt myself miss my pole the race seemed to be getting away from me … we both had to dig really deep to make back that time so recovering made that race really special.”
Sara was born in Golden, B.C., and raised in the backcountry. She spent her formative years connected to the mountain peaks, where her parents operated the Assiniboine Lodge, North America’s first backcountry ski lodge located near Canmore. The setting provided a perfect backdrop to hone her athletic talents.
“I feel like I was just a normal kid growing up in Canmore and I had this great opportunity to try my absolute best with so much support around me,” she said.
The Canmore cross country scene was brimming with potential at the time, with a crop of committed, ambitious and talented young ski racers. “It’s what we did after school,” she explained. “I’d walk up to my best buddies house and we’d walk to the Nordic Centre and ski with a big herd of kids; honestly it was just so much fun.”
The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics were a big motivator for Sara, who at 12 years of age she keenly observed the effort and determination of the world’s best skiers. “As a kid watching those events it was incredible; I imagined myself on the podium … I visualized that from a young age and I wanted it really badly.”
Sara quickly worked her way up the cross country ranks from local and regional events and eventually to the World Cup level where she won her first World Cup medal at Silver Star (Vernon) in December 2005, sharing the podium with longtime teammate Beckie Scott. Over the next year she earned three more World Cup medals.
Sara is married to Olympic alpine skier Thomas Grandi, also a member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame, of which they share in the joy of three girls: Aria, Gabi and Maya. Sara continues to be an environmental advocate, representing 350.org and Y2Y conservation efforts and continues to actively appreciate and honour nature through environmental stewardship. Sara also continues to ski weekly with her former teammates, meeting every Friday “to do intensities together”, a lighthearted way to stay in touch with the ski community and network of friends and former teammates who accomplished so many things together.
“As you come full circle and you reflect on what sport is and the gifts it can give, you forget very quickly the medals and the achievements and you remember these lasting friendships and situations where people had your back. And if you don’t have that at the end of your career you don’t have anything because you stand on the podium for such little time and then you move on to what’s next. The gift of sport really is friendships and an undying love of the sport and something I hold dear in my heart.”
“If you told me when I was a 12-year-old girl that I’d one day be in the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame I would never have believe it. To be inducted is such an honour. In some ways it feels like it was a different life and sometimes it’s hard to believe that it all happened.”
- 2002 – 8th in Olympic Winter Games 4 x 5 km, Salt Lake City
- 2002 – 9th in Olympic Winter Games SP 1.5 km, Salt Lake City
- 2005 – 4th in World Cup 6 x 1.2 km Team Sprint, Pragelato, Italy
- 2005 – 3rd in World Nordic Championships, SP 0.9 km, Oberstdorf, Germany
- 2005 – 3rd in World Cup SP 1.3 km, Vernon, BC
- 2005 – 2nd in World Cup 6 x 1.2 km Sprint, Canmore, Alberta
- 2006 – 2nd in World Cup 10 km, Davos, Switzerland
- 2006 – 3rd in World Cup 0.75 km, Borelaenge, Sweden
- 2006 – 2nd in Olympic Winter Games 6 x 1.2 km Sprint, Pragelato, Italy
- 2009 – 5th in World Cup 10 km, Valdidentro, Italy
- 2009 – 6th in World Nordic Championships, 1.3 km Team Sprint, Liberec, Czech
- 2010 – 10th in Olympic Winter Games 15 km Pursuit, Whistler Olympic Park
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