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Vaillancourt, Smith Collect Mass-Start Titles at Canadian Biathlon Nationals

Audrey Vaillancourt (Quebec) completed her set of three titles at 2013 Canadian Biathlon Championships on Tuesday with a photo-finish victory over Megan Heinicke (Biathlon BC) in the 12.5 k mass start in Whistler, B.C.

“We both deserved to win today,” Vaillancourt wrote in an email. “I’m just glad I managed to have a better stretch.”

Vaillancourt shot clean at Whistler Olympic Park to finish in 34:54.0. Heinicke was just 0.2 seconds behind and missed one shot (0+0+1+0).

“Today skiing didn’t feel as good as during the weekend,” Vaillancourt wrote, “So I focused more on shooting and it worked very well; I had a perfect day on the range.”

Vaillancourt enjoyed her first mass start of the season: “On the last lap we came out of the range together, so I knew this was going to be a really tough one,” she wrote. “We both tried to drop each other at different places on the course, but we were both dead tired and ended up together for the final sprint! It has been a photo finish for the win!”

Corrine Malcolm (U.S. Biathlon) took third place in 36:38 (1+0+1+0), 30 seconds ahead of Julia Ransom (Biathlon BC) in fourth.

“Today was actually the best I’ve ever shot in a race,” Malcolm wrote.  “Unfortunately I lost a little bit of time when I accidentally started to ski onto the 2km cut off on our second loop.  Luckily [Canadian biathlete] Rosanna [Crawford] saw me veer off and was able to yell to me to turn around. By the time I made it back to the right trail Julia was coming by and I was able to get in with her and ski nice and relaxed.  Julia and I stayed together until the last shooting stage where I cleaned and she missed her final shot.”

Ransom’s time of 37:08 (2+0+1+1) was good enough for third Canadian, but shooting was perhaps not surprisingly the difference for the 20 year old who started her first Cross Country World Cup earlier this season in Canmore, Alberta.

In the men’s 15 k mass start, Nathan Smith (Alberta/Biathlon Canada) struck back after Sunday’s starting error by dominating the day. He won by 44 seconds in 37:53 despite missing three shots (1+0+0+2) during what he described as ideal shooting conditions.

“I missed that first shot prone and was a little concerned, but after that I felt comfortable and in control,” Smith told Biathlon Canada. “I know I didn’t win the pursuit race, but I feel like I’m in great shape and accomplished what I came here to do.”

Marc-André Bédard (Quebec) was second in 38:37 with four misses.

“Shooting was perfect 3 out of 4 times,” he wrote in an email.  “[I] missed 4 at my first standing!”

Although disappointed by his shooting, that should not be a problem next week when Bédard competes at Canadian cross-country nationals. “I’m hoping to repeat or do better than my 4th at the 15 free last year!” he wrote.

Bill Bowler took third place to lead a large American contingent with his second podium. He finished 43 seconds behind Bédard, and also had four penalties (0+1+2+1).

“I felt good on the skis,” Bowler wrote. “Definitely better than in the races earlier this week.”

He agreed that the conditions weren’t a problem. “It was a perfect day for racing with fast tracks,” he wrote. “The weather in Whistler can be volatile so it was nice to have sun and solid conditions.”

Kurtis Wenzel (Alberta) grabbed the Canadian bronze with 39:31 (0+0+1+1), good for fourth overall.

Biathlon wraps up Wednesday with the relays.  The Sea to Sky Nordic Festival continues with cross country nationals (March 23 to 29), nordic combined (March 28 to 30) and ski jumping (March 28 to 30).

Mass-start results

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