Several Canadian juniors entered the World Youth and Junior Championships with big expectations after successful runs last season. But in 2013, both Christian Gow and Julia Ransom had an additional challenge: moving up an age class.
In 2012 in Kontiolahti, Finland, Ransom had medaled and Gow finished 11th in the youth races. After turning 19, they were bumped up to juniors.
“The level this year does seem a bit more elite to me, especially the lead group of guys,” Gow told FasterSkier. “I think that makes it more difficult to get a good result, but it is better to see where I stack up against the very best. knew this year would be tougher, but I trained a lot harder and more focused than any other year so I feel prepared.”
In both the men’s and women’s sprint races in Obertilliach, Austria, on Saturday, the very best were indeed a step above the rest. Laura Dahlmeier of Germany won the women’s 7.5 k by 48 seconds over Olga Podchufarova of Russia; pairs of Russians and Norwegians fought it out in the men’s 10 k race, but fifth place was almost a minute behind.
Starting with bib 16, Gow was well-ranked early in the race, especially after cleaning in prone. But then the veterans hit the trails.
Russia’s Alexandr Loginov prevailed, picking up his fourth individual medal at this event and first gold; Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway, twice a World Champion last year, placed second. For third-place Maxim Tsvetkov of Russia, bronze was surely a disappointment after two gold medals at each of the last two Championships. And in four Championships Vetle Sjastad Christiansen of Norway has never not won a medal – so despite fourth place in the sprint he can’t be counted out of future races.
So while Gow ultimately placed 14th after accumulating two penalties in standing, he was still only a minute out of the top five. And he knows he can do better.
“I was really happy with the start of my race…. but I am disappointed with my standing,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It was not windy at all today. However, there was some strange lighting because the sun was really bright on the carpets, but the targets were really dark. I found it difficult to get a good sight picture, but I still feel like I threw two shots away. I wish that I could have at least one of them back.”
He had the best North American race of the day, although Ransom almost matched his result, placing 16th in the women’s sprint. With a single penalty, Ransom was steady on the trails and also sits just over a minute out of the top five. Going into the pursuit races on Sunday, both have strong chances for a top-ten showing or better.
The women’s field shook out a bit differently than the men’s. Dahlmeier hasn’t been on the podium in several years, but more recent medalists struggled: Hilde Fenne, who was superb in the youth races last year and has since scored World Cup points and participated in two winning World Cup relays, was the third Norwegian across the line in 13th. Grete Gaim, who won last year’s youth pursuit, was 26th. Chardine Sloof, who became the first Dutch World Champion, placed 31st.
But Ransom’s success isn’t the only thing the Canadian women’s team has to be excited about. They placed all four racers in the 60-woman pursuit, with Emma Lodge and Rose-Marie Coté finishing 41st and 43rd and first-time World Juniors competitor Erin Yungblut sneaking in by the skin of her teeth, in a tie for 59th.
The lone American in the race, Tara Geraghty-Moats, placed 63rd.
Macx Davies also turned in a strong ski performance for the Canadian men, placing 30th. That was despite five penalties; Davies had the tenth-fastest ski time of the day, and Gow the 15th.
Menno Arendz just missed the pursuit, finishing 64th with one penalty, and Jasper Mackenzie placed 73rd. In his second trip to the Championships, Mackenzie was hoping for more.
“To be honest I’m a little disappointed with my results today,” he wrote in an e-mail. “One of my main goals coming into this year’s Championship was to qualify for the pursuit… My shooting wasn’t to good, I felt solid on the range coming into the race today but I honestly don’t know where I went wrong on my prone misses. 7/10 shooting at this level of competition just isn’t good enough. It was a lot of fun to get out and race today but I know I can perform better than that.”
While Arendz is a first-timer at this level of competition, Mackenzie, like Gow and Davies, feels like his is settling in to the international scene a little more.
“Last year I was very nervous coming into the Championships,” Mackenzie told FasterSkier. “This year I have been feeling way more confident, I feel like I have improved a lot of the summer, my skiing and shooting have both improved significantly. It’s just a bummer that today’s race did not reflect my true potential. This year I really just wanted to be able to walk away from my races knowing that I did the absolute best I could, and I’m confident that I’ll do just that in the races to come.”
For the U.S., Casey Smith finished 43rd and Jacob Dalberg 71st.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.