RUHPOLDING, Germany – After a week where not many team members were satisfied with their performances, the Canadian women’s squad crafted a new strategy for the 4 x 6 kilometer relay on Saturday.
In most cases, Megan Imrie and Zina Kocher have skied the first two legs. But not this time: for World Championships, the women wanted to mix things up.
“We just decided to try switching it because usually Megan and Megan and Yolaine are awesome shooters, so we were kind of figuring we’d stay in the game with that,” Kocher told FasterSkier at the finish line.
The plan left Kocher, who has had the best individual results of the team so far this week, to anchor.
Things started out as planned, with scramble leg Imrie using two spare rounds in prone and then quickly cleaning standing and attacking on the final loop to tag off in sixth place.
“Yeah, it was good,” Imrie said. “I did my very best. I had only two spares, so I can say that was good.”
But from there, things began to fall apart for the Canadians. Like Imrie, second leg Megan Heinicke turned in the twelfth-ranked ski time, but Heinicke used more spare rounds and dropped to eleventh, then twelfth.
“I feel bad, I kind of wrecked our relay here,” a clearly frustrated Heinicke told FasterSkier. “I actually felt good skiing, but it was just too many spares on the range. No penalty loops or anything, but it takes seven or eight seconds to load a spare, so that costs time, and I used four in my race, which is more than I had hoped for.”
When Yolaine Oddou took over, she immediately struggled in prone, using all of her spare rounds and still skiing a penalty loop. She dropped to 16th, but then climbed one spot to 15th after hitting all her standing targets on the first attempt.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t where the team was hoping Kocher would begin her anchor leg.
“Yolaine had a bit of a problem in the prone,” Kocher said. “She has kind of been struggling all week, and it was unfortunate. I’m sure she’s sad about it, and quite frustrated – she’s an awesome shooter. Definitely, we could do better.”
Kocher gained a few spots – the team placed 13th – by using only a single spare over the course of her two shooting stages, which, she pointed out, made the relay her best shoot of the week. She was happy that it could come on a day where her team needed her, but at the same time noted some irony: she needs to achieve a top-16 result in an individual race to resume receiving Athletics Canada funding, and she wouldn’t have minded if she’d shot that well in the individual races.
Overall, Kocher liked racing the final leg.
“My leg was really good,” she said. “I actually haven’t anchored since I was a junior. It was good – I was way more relaxed than when I’m in second. I love being first and second, but it’s more of a tense situation.”
Kocher is the only Canadian woman qualified for Sunday’s mass start so for the others, the relay was the last race of World Championships. Imrie said she milked that fact for all it was worth.
“Walking to the start and hearing all the fans singing along, I was just totally enjoying the music, loving the weather, and everything was great… so it’s a nice way to end it,” she said.