In the final biathlon World Cup before the Olympics, Canadian biathletes Zina Kocher and Brendan Green showed strong form by both placing 14th in the IBU World Cup pursuit in Antholz, Italy.
There were no U.S. finishers. Only two U.S. biathletes qualified for yesterday’s pursuit -Tim Burke in 31st and Haley Johnson in 59th – but Burke did not start the pursuit race and Haley Johnson did not finish. The U.S. biathletes have cited travel and race exhaustion as reasons to take this weekend easy or return home for rest.
The 27-year-old Kocher is firing her way back into the elite form she displayed while winning a bronze medal for Canada on the World Cup three years ago. The Red Deer, Alta. native was hunting down a top-10 finish, but missed her final two shots in standing, to finish 14th at 33 minutes 53.4 seconds.
“It was another good day and I was really close to finishing in the top-10, which is the key to get within striking distance of the podium,” said Kocher. “I am really confident now and that is a good feeling heading into the Games.”
After taking a season off with mono, Kocher’s climb back to the top of the international standings has been enduring. Kocher credits her breakthrough to a World Cup race last month in Austriawhere she shot nine-for-10 in a sprint competition. The following week she narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in Slovenia where she shot perfect in an individual competition.
“I really felt it coming together in Hochfilzen and I just kept feeding off each race and getting better every week,” said Kocher. “I dream about the Olympics and visualize everyday. I am going to take a break for three days and not even think about biathlon, and get ready for my final preparations.”
Germany’s Andrea Henkel won her first pursuit competition after posting a time of 30:59.8. Magdalena Neuner, also of Germany, finished second at 31:23.1, while Ann Kristin Aefedt Flatland, ofNorway, missed just one shot while claiming the bronze at 31:44.7.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Brendan Green capped off a dream week on the World Cup by posting his personal best finish with a 14th-place result after stopping the clock at 33:06.1.
The 23-year-old Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., was on a mission Sunday to get into the top-15 for the first time of his career. Starting 33 spots behind the leaders, Green gained momentum throughout the competition while passing many of the world’s elite biathletes.
“Everything seemed to come together today. The skis were really strong and I felt really relaxed on the range,” said Green. “I steadily worked my way through the field and just felt great on my skis. The wax techs did an amazing job.”
Green gained a boatload of confidence earlier in the week when he finished 19th in an individual event.
“That was a great result for me and gave me the confidence to help me mentally to know that I can compete with the big names,” said Green. “This was the best way to end off the World Cup before the Olympics and I am looking forward to going to race some IBU Cups over the next couple of weeks.”
Jean-Philippe Le Guellec, of Shannon, Que., was 33rd at 34:36.1, while Marc-Andre Bedard, of Valcartier, Que., was 43rd (35:11.7).
Austria’s Daniel Mesotitsch set the time to beat at 31:50.4. Germany’s Arnd Peiffer finished in second place with a time of 31:52.1, while Austria’s Dominik Landertinger won the bronze medal with a time of 32:10.1.
Excerpts from Chris Dornan for Cross Country Canada