Three Canadians and one American competed at last week’s International Biathlon Union (IBU) Cup opener in in Sjusjøen, Norway, with Canada’s Emma Lunder posting an individual top 20 and her teammates Sarah Beaudry and Carsen Campbell teaming up to place fourth in the single mixed relay on Sunday, Nov. 26.
In an email, Biathlon Canada High Performance Director Roddy Ward explained that Canada did not send its full IBU Cup team to the season-opening races, as IBU Cup #1 was not part of the national team’s plan.
“Current [national team] athletes were sanctioned to race, at their own expense, if they felt it would prepare them better for the season,” Ward wrote.
That created some additional legwork for those three athletes, as well as fellow national-team members Scott and Christian Gow and Brendan Green, who arrived in Europe on Nov. 12 to race at Norwegian trials Nov. 18-19 in Sjusjøen.
“Scott Gow was in charge of booking accommodations for everyone, and we ended up in an awesome little cabin in the woods quite close to the venue [in Sjusjøen],” Lunder, a 26-year-old Senior National Team member, wrote in an email. She and Campbell, of the National “Z” Team, arrived in Europe on Nov. 16 in an effort to get some early season racing in as well.
“I also wasn’t sure whether I’d qualify for [World Cup] or IBU Cup from our Canadian trials, so just having the trip booked was some security for me, knowing that no matter what happened with trials, the next goal was to go and perform well in Sjusjoen which definitely helped me feel less pressure at trials,” added Lunder, who earned one of two remaining women’s spots on Canada’s World Cup team based on her results at team trials earlier this month in Canmore, Alberta.
On Thursday, Nov. 23, Lunder placed 19th in the IBU Cup’s opening 7.5-kilometer sprint. After that, she headed to Östersund, Sweden, to prepare for the first World Cup of the season. In Östersund, she was part of Canada’s team that placed 15th in the mixed relay on Sunday.
“Emma had a solid first race considering travel,” Ward noted of her IBU Cup performance. “The plan was for Emma to go early and race one IBU Cup before heading to Ostersund. 19th was definitely a good showing but I believe we’ll see more from Emma this season.”
Lunder wrote that she was pleased with her sprint result on Thursday, especially considering the weather, which she described as “extreme fog and also a lot of wind.”
“During our zero the coaches couldn’t even use their scopes – they closed the range so coaches could run down, grab the paper that had been shot at, and then athletes made corrections off of that,” Lunder reflected. “I was happy that through all of it I was quite relaxed, even thought it was a very different situation than I’m normally used to pre-race!”
With three penalties, two in her prone shooting stage and another in standing (2+1), Lunder finished 2:18.5 behind Russia’s Uliana Kaisheva, who won in 21:49.8 with clean shooting (0+0).
“Of course I hoped to hit a few more targets, but I think given the conditions I did an okay job,” Lunder wrote. “My skiing felt pretty strong, and it was nice to get the season started in a low-stress environment.”
Norway’s Thekla Brun-Lie placed second in that race (+41.9; 0+1), and Russia had two on the podium with Olga Iakushova in third (+1:18.8; 0+1). In fact, Russia had four in the top five in the women’s opening sprint.
Beaudry, who will be starting her season on Canada’s IBU Cup team, finished 49th (+3:57.1) with five penalties (4+1). American Kelsey Dickinson placed 76th (+6:05.0) with six penalties (3+3), out of 97 women.
“My first sprint just wasn’t so great,” Beaudry, a 23-year-old Senior National Team member, wrote in an email. “I didn’t have a great zero and found it pretty hard to see in the fog and missed 4 prone and then crashed in the penalty loop. … I was happy with my effort and got to shake out the early season jitters in some challenging conditions.”
Thursday kicked off with the men’s 10 k sprint, in which Campbell, also of Canada’s IBU Cup team, finished 35th with one penalty (0+1), out of 128 men. His time was 2:00.1 minutes behind French winner Emilien Jacquelin, who won in 25:26.1 with one standing miss as well (0+1). Jacquelin won by 5.7 seconds over Germany’s Johannes Kuehn, who placed second after skiing three penalty laps (0+3). Russia’s Alexey Slepov placed third (+8.1) with one miss in each stage (1+1).
Two days later on Saturday, Nov. 25, it was back to more sprinting for the men and women. Beaudry raced to 23rd in the women’s 7.5 k sprint (+1:15.5) with a single standing miss (0+1) and Dickinson finished 86th (+3:56.6) with three penalties (1+2). Campbell placed 76th in the men’s 10 k sprint (+3:21.3) with four penalties (2+2).
“I am happy with my second sprint,” Beaudry wrote. “I felt really good skiing but I think there is still room for improvement as the season goes on. I was also pretty happy with my shooting except kinda pissed that my miss was my last shot.”
“Sarah’s second sprint was very strong,” Ward noted. “Time back from leader was very good. Sarah made big gains this offseason and I know she’s happy with it but looking for more. Carsen had a good first race and then struggled in the 2nd race. Carsen has been looking solid all fall and I’d like to see him score some top 20 results.”
Germany’s Denise Herrmann won the women’s sprint in 20:43.9 with two penalties (1+1). Austria’s Katharina Innerhofer hit all 10 of her targets (0+0) to place second (+4.0), and Brun-Lie shot clean as well to reach the podium for the second-straight race, this time in third (+15.8).
Norway went 1-2 in the men’s sprint with World Cup biathlete Tarjei Bø beating Fredrik Gjesbakk by 23.7 seconds in 23:00.1. Both had one standing miss (0+1), and Russia’s Eduard Latypov shot clean to finish third (+31.2).
On Sunday, while Lunder was racing the mixed relay in Östersund, Beaudry and Campbell raced to fourth in the single mixed relay in Sjusjøen, missing the podium by 13.2 seconds and finishing 1:10.9 out of first. Together, they used five spares and avoided the penalty loop (0+5).
“Carsen and I definitely put together a really strong relay and had some really good shooting which is key in the single mixed relay,” Beaudry wrote.
She used three total spares to clean, two of which were in her first prone stage. Campbell used two spares: one in each of his prone stages.
“I was very happy with my shooting today,” wrote Campbell, who turns 23 on Dec. 9. “My standing was as close to perfect as I have ever done and I made it through the prone with no major issues. I was near the front for the whole race so I felt a lot of pressure not to blow the good work Sarah had put down. It was nice to see that I was able to handle it without cracking.
“Hopefully we get the chance to try again in Lenzerheide, I think we could make the podium,” he added, referring to the next IBU Cup in Switzerland, which opens Dec. 8 with relays.
Ward explained that a relay podium was a realistic goal for Beaudry and Campbell.
“Single mixed is a bit of a different race and hard to completely compare to traditional race distances,” Ward wrote. “Sarah was born for this race, she has unbelievable speed in short distance and is a quick and accurate shooter. Carsen is also great in the range and can hold his own on course. I knew in the weeks leading up that they had a shot at the podium, and they were close.”
France’s Julia Simon and Antonin Guigonnat won the single mixed relay after leading from the first leg. Despite Guigonnat having to ski one penalty lap on the last leg, they won by 36.7 seconds in 37:33.1, with one penalty and seven spares (1+7). Sweden, with Elisabeth Hoegberg and Tobias Arwidson, placed second with no penalties and five spares (0+5), and Austria captured third place (+57.7) with Innerhofer and David Komatz (1+9).
“My plan since the summer has been to come here to get the bugs out and be ready to go 100% by Lenzerheide,” Campbell explained. “Having a good relay today was a bonus! My sprints need some work but that’s why I’m here. Overall I’d say IBU Cup 1 has been a success for me and I’m excited for the next one!”
“With last season being a really hard year for me I definitely went into the season nervous,” Beaudry explained. “I didn’t have any specific expectations I was just hoping for better feelings then last year. Considering I already have had a better IBU cup race result then last season and my best relay result on the IBU cup, I can say I am happy with how the season is starting.
“This trip to race the IBU cup 1 was on our own and I definitely owe a big thanks to Carsen and Emma for organizing it all and letting me tag along last minute, as well as our Norwegian friend Kristin Lyche for hosting, coaching and taking care of us here in Norway,” Beaudry wrote, referring to a Norwegian friend whom they spent several months training with in Canmore this summer.
Lyche housed Beaudry upon her arrival in Sjusjøen, and Lunder and Campbell moved from their cabin rental to Lyche’s place on Nov. 23.
“And to the Italian team for waxing my skis all week,” Beaudry added. “Going to races without an official team can definitely be a little more challenging but I think it has been super beneficial and I am really happy that I came to Norway.”
“I had contacted the Italian team back in the fall,” Lunder explained, “and when Sarah Beaudry booked her trip last minute after trials, they also agreed to support her which was great. The race skis they prepared for me for Thursday’s sprint were really, really fast, so I was extremely grateful to them! … Overall it wasn’t as stressful as I expected to organize our own trip, and I would plan on doing something similar again next year if need be!”
IBU Cup 1 results: