Canmore’s Aidan Millar might be the only Canadian biathlete headed to the Youth Olympic Games who doesn’t have international racing experience, but that doesn’t mean that he’s unprepared for the world stage.
For one thing, training in Canmore has meant that he can keep an eye on the competition: Canadian teammates Danielle Vrielink and Stuart Harden are also members of different clubs based out of the 1988 Olympic venue. The plethora of talented youngsters makes it difficult to stand out, but easy to get faster.
And over the last few years, Millar has done just that, making a spot for himself both in the competitive Canmore community as well as on the Canadian biathlon scene. In 2010, the Alberta Biathlon Club recognized his progress by awarding him a grant for a summer development camp.
The move paid off – in part because Millar decided to quit basketball and focus entirely on biathlon, according to coach Roddy Ward.
“His change in commitment and effort in training last season made a huge difference,” Ward told FasterSkier. “His progress through the season was impressive and he finished off the year with multiple medals at Biathlon National Championships and a spot on the YOG team. Aidan also had some very good races at Cross Country Nationals.”
In 2011, Millar improved steadily over the course of the season, first notching NorAm podiums and then winning the sprint at Alberta Championships, which also served as the sixth NorAm weekend. He capped the season off by collecting two age-group medals at Canadian national championships, results that ultimately led to his nomination for Innsbruck.
Ward knew that Millar’s best was yet to come.
“Aidan’s potential in the sport is very good of course, as long as he stays motivated, resilient and works hard in training each year,” Ward said. “Aidan does not shy away from the hard work and he maintains a good perspective on life, so I am excited to see how far he can take it.”
FasterSkier checked in with Millar to see how he was preparing for the Games.
FasterSkier: Can you tell me a little bit about your history as a skier? How did you get into skiing when you were growing up?
Aidan Millar: I first started skiing when I was about nine years old when I joined the local jackrabbit program. Near the end of my jackrabbit career I had someone from the level above come and talk to my group about what the next level was all about. When I joined the next level (which at the time was called Radical Skiers Unlimited) that’s when I really started to love skiing.
FS: When did you take up biathlon and what made you want to do it?
AM: While I was in jackrabbits I had the opportunity to try biathlon. Trying biathlon was one of the main factors that made me continue to the next level. I really liked it for the different aspect it gave to cross-country skiing and it made cross-country more interesting for me.
FS: What team do you train with in Canmore, and who is your coach?
AM: My club is the Canmore Nordic Ski Club. I train with all the older biathletes and cross country skiers in the club who range from 14 to 17. I have some great people to train with who push me and help keep it fun. In my club the biathletes and cross country skiers train together every week, so I train with some very fast skiers. We are all close in ability so it is a great group to train with to help improve my skiing. My biathlon coach is Roddy Ward and in the skiing aspect I have Alain Parent as well as Roddy Ward. Both my coaches are great and they have really helped me to get to where I am.
FS: So there’s a lot of competition for you in Canmore – do you feel like that’s a benefit?
AM: Training here is great. There are so many fast skiers around to push yourself against or others who are pushing you. In Canmore we are friends with some of the kids from other clubs so it’s a friendly atmosphere. With lots of clubs training in Canmore, you get to see how other athletes training is going and how you measure up against them.
FS: Besides having a strong club team, there are a lot of great senior racers kicking around Canmore. Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot from being exposed to senior training groups?
AM: It’s really cool having both the senior biathlon and cross-country teams here. It gives you someone to aspire to and look up to. I find it really helps motivate me to try and be where they are in the future.
FS: Have you ever raced internationally before?
AM: I have never raced internationally before so I am really looking forward to this opportunity.
FS: What are going to be some of the biggest challenges for you to adapt to at such high-level races?
AM: I think it will be the skiing. Here in Canada we have some great skiers but I think that some of the other nations will be even faster.
FS: Did the fact that you were named to the team so far before the competition change your approach to summer and fall training at all? Are you doing anything differently to prepare?
AM: It has giving me something to look forward to and something to motivate me. I think this year I have really put all my effort into my training so I am excited to see how it pays off.
FS: What are you most looking forward to about the Youth Olympic Games?
AM: Racing against the some of the best in the world. I think it will really give me a chance to see how I measure up internationally. I am also looking forward to just meeting other athletes from all over the world.