12/18/2011 11:25 EST | Updated 02/17/2012 05:12 EST

Canada's Chandra Crawford races to World Cup cross-country skiing silver medal

ROGLA, Slovenia - Canada's Chandra Crawford raced onto the World Cup podium for the first time this season, winning a silver medal in a cross-country skiing skate-sprint race Sunday.

Norway's Maiken Caspersens Falla put on a surge down the finishing stretch to pull away from Crawford to win the gold, while Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter earned the bronze.

"This feels really good to punch through onto the podium, and I'm so excited for our team that has been pushing so hard these two months," said the 28-year-old Crawford.

"I was thinking a lot about that today as I was approaching the final. The wax techs told me today before the final 'In five minutes from now it is Christmas.' I wanted to make the best of my chance today and it was so cool to break through for the entire team."

The silver was the first for the 2006 Olympic champion from Canmore, Alta. She's won two World Cup gold and two bronze medals.

Crawford's strategy in the final was to stick close to her American friend Kikkan Randall who won the last two sprint races.

"I was so bagged this morning and felt awful," said Crawford. "We know the feeling and your performance in cross-country skiing don't always indicate things.

"My goal was just to follow Kikkan. If I can stick with her it will be an awesome day. In the final she fell so that was a bummer because we are still looking for a North American podium with us both on it, but I was able to break through."

Crawford had been flirting with the podium this season, finishing fourth and ninth in the previous two World Cup skate-sprints.

Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., finished ninth.

Three Canadian men also moved into the heats with the top-30, but were unable to advance past the quarter-finals. Devon Kershaw of Sudbury,Ont., was 15th, Toronto's Lenny Valjas was 18th, and Alex Harvey, of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished 19th.

Dario Cologna of Switzerland won the men's gold. Russia's Nikolay Morilov claimed the silver medal, while Norway's Anders Gloeersen won bronze.