Two young Calgary biathletes shocked the world by finishing third and fourth in a men’s 10-kilometre sprint competition at the IBU Biathlon Cup in Obertilliach, Austria on Friday. Nathan Smith put his name in the history books as one of a handful of Canadian biathletes to win a medal in international racing after capturing the bronze with a time of 24 minutes, 18.1 seconds, while senior team rookie, Scott Gow, narrowly missed the podium placing fourth at 24:31.4 against a deep field of nearly 100 athletes – many of whom compete regularly on the World Cup circuit.
“It feels great. Only a few other Canadians have had top-four results on the IBU Cup so two in one day is exceptional,” said Smith, who turns 26 on Christmas Day and becomes the sixth Canadian biathlete to medal on the IBU Cup over the last decade. The Canadian squad also finished fourth in Wednesday’s mixed relay.
“During the training season I made some strong improvements in both skiing and shooting and I was hoping to carry those over to the competitionseason. This result is affirmation the work is paying off in actual results.”
A foursome of rising young Canadian biathlon stars came up just short in their quest for the podium, finishing sixth in a World Cup mixed team relay on Sunday in Hochfilzen, Austria. Two-time Olympic veterans, 26-year-old Jean-Philippe Le Guellec of Shannon, Que., and 29-year-old Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., led two 25-year-olds: Megan Imrie, of Falcon Lake, Man., and Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., to the team’s best-ever finish in the 2×6, 2×7.5-kilometre relay with a sixth-place time of 1:14:47.9.
“The team has been fantastic this entire tour. We are very supportive of each other, and everyone’s made big gains,” said Megan Imrie following her career-best 24th place finish this weekend. “The coaching staff has been their usual outstanding supportive selves, and our wax techs are the best on the planet. We have worked very hard as a team and we know it’s going only going to get better!”
It has been a fun start to the World Cup season for Canada’s biathlon squad who have all enjoyed personal best performances. Zina Kocher, the only Canadian biathlete to have hopped onto the World Cup podium in the last two decades, found her way back into the top-15, while Brendan Green matched his career-best performance with a 14th place result earlier this year as well.
In addition to Imrie’s breakthrough weekend over the last two days, Jean-Philippe Leg Guellec hunted down the world’s best on Saturday to post his third top-10 finish of his career on the World Cup when he was eighth in the pursuit.
Canada’s Brian McKeever and Erik Carleton teamed up to win their first-ever IPC World Cup race together in a 10-kilometre classic-ski race in Sjusjoen Norway on Sunday. The childhood ski friends growing up in Calgary, who won three silver medals in as many races this week, finally climbed onto the top step of the podium together after clocking thefastest time of the day at 27:38.2 in the men’s visually impaired category.
“We have been doing a lot of skate racing so it was nice to change the technique and get this one,” said the 32-year-old McKeever. “I think we still have a little advantage over some of the guys in classic racing. The key to winning is to exploit your strengths and others weaknesses and we did that today.”
McKeever and Carleton also won a silver in the 20km on Thursday.
Colette Bourgonje, of Saskatoon, hung on for theride of her life while battling the difficult Nordic trails in Sjusjoen to win the bronze medal with a time of 38:14.6.
“It was like being on a bobsleigh track with all of those downhills today,” said the 49-year-old Bourgonje, who has participated in all six Paralympic Winter Games in addition to three Paralympic Summer Games. “The course was very technical with lots of hills and it was a tight race, but we had great support from our wax techs and it went well today.”
Canada’s Mark Arendz extended his season medal-winning streak to three after winning the gold in the men’s 15-kilometre IPC Biathlon World Cup event in Sjusjoen, Norway on Tuesday. The 21-year-old Arendz, who has broken through as one of the world’s top biathletes on the para-nordic circuit since making his Paralympic debut in 2010, powered his way to a golden time of 47:13.0 for the fourth IPC World Cup victory of his young career.
“I woke up this morning ready for this race and felt very comfortable on my skis which is a big step forward for me from previous years,” said Arendz, who battled through deteriorating weather conditions. “I was confident my training in adverse conditions helped me today. The wax techs worked their magic and gave me an amazing pair of boards.” Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., missed just one shot in four rounds of shooting on a challenging day on the range.
“It was tough shooting conditions with very strong winds and heavy overcast with a light snowfall,” said Arendz. “I was also skiing very well today. I was relaxed but powerful up the climbs.”