At the end of last week, both the U.S. and Canadian biathlon teams announced their rosters for the upcoming World Championships in Ruhpolding, Germany, March 1-11.
The biggest surprise was the absence of Brendan Green, the top Canadian man who is currently ranked 32nd in the world. Green recently had a trio of career-best results and his first top-ten finishes on the World Cup in Oslo, Norway, but was hit by back problems before the weekend was even over. After returning to Canada, the injury became so severe that he will not be able to compete.
Instead, 34th-ranked Jean-Phillippe Le Guellec will lead the team without him, joined by World Cup semi-regular Scott Perras. The squad will be rounded out by Nathan Smith, who recently picked up three wins at IBU Cup competitions in Canmore, Alberta, and Marc-Andre Bedard, who had top-ten finishes of his own at the races.
While Smith seemed like a shoo-in based on multiple top-ten finishes on the IBU Cup earlier this season, most of the athletes didn’t even know that a fourth spot was up for grabs until recently. Bedard told FasterSkier that he was not expecting a nomination.
“I was hoping for sure that with great results in Canmore that I might get a shot but Nathan had even better resullts,” he wrote in an e-mail. “When I heard about Brendan, that gave me a shock as I knew what was going to happen but I just stayed focus on my races in Alberta, actually more hoping that our ‘best man’ would get back for Germany!”
Bedard said that even without Green competing, he would still be motivating the team for great results.
“It seems serious, so I get to go and I’ll have him on my shoulder pushing in his honor,” Bedard wrote. “I have a lot of respect for him and I’m just wishing for him to get back stronger, kind of like [Alex] Harvey did after his surgery.”
On the women’s side, Canada will be led by Zina Kocher, who is currently ranked 23rd in the world. She is joined by Megan Imrie, who collected her first pair of top-20 World Cup results earlier this season. Yolaine Oddou and Megan Heinicke, who both podiumed in the Canmore races, will also compete.
Even though there are only four starting positions available for each country in each competition, the U.S. named five men to its World Championship team. It’s not clear yet who will start each race. The move, however, was not entirely surprising. Four Americans – Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke, Jay Hakkinen, and Russell Currier – have finished in the top ten in World Cup competition this year.
The fifth man, Leif Nordgren, was sick for much of the early season, but told FasterSkier after Under-26 Open European Championships that he was on the upswing. Nordgren had the best results at last year’s World Championships, and anchored the U.S. relay team there to a historic sixth-place finish; that was likely a consideration in naming him to the team even though he has not started a World Cup since early January.
Three U.S. women have competed in the last period of World Cups, and all three will be heading to Ruhpolding. Rookie Susan Dunklee leads the team in the rankings, landing at 48th in the World Cup standings, while Sara Studebaker, who could be called the veteran among the trio, snagged her first top-20 result of the season at the last World Cup in Kontiolahti, Finland. Annelies Cook is having her best season yet, and true veteran Lanny Barnes will round out the team after hitting the podium in Canmore last week.
North American Roster for World Championships
Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY)
Marc-Andre Bedard (Quebec, QC)
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY)
Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME)
Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK)
Jean-Phillipe Le Guellec (Kingston, ON)
Leif Nordgren (Marine on St. Croix, MN)
Scott Perras (Regina, SK)
Nathan Smith (Calgary, AB)
Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO)
Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, NY)
Susan Dunklee (Barton, VT)
Megan Heinicke (Squamish, BC)
Megan Imrie (Falcon Lake, MB)
Zina Kocher (Red Deer, AB)
Yolaine Oddou (Val Belair, QC)
Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID)