Zina Kocher (CAN) was struggling with her shooting at the International Biathlon Union World Championships in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and failed to qualify for the final competition of the week, the mass start.
But instead of dwelling on poor results, she made her way to Davos, Switzerland, arriving the night before the 10km freestyle World Cup race.
“It was very last minute decision,” Kocher wrote to FasterSkier in an email. “There has been discussion between Biathlon and Cross-Country Canada for me to start a XC race this year or next year. This just happened to be a possible opportunity for me to do just that.”
Kocher did not perform well in Nove Mesto. She finished 74th in the 7.5k sprint, missing four of ten targets, and then was 52nd in the individual, with 6 misses in 20 attempts.
She has always been a strong skier, and turned in a solid performance in Davos, especially when the logistics are considered.
She ended up 36th in her first straight cross-country race in “years and years,” finishing just over two minutees behind winner Therese Johaug of Norway, and 16 seconds out of the top-30.
“I felt decent considering I had three races this last week in Nove Mesto, and then travelled all day yesterday to get here. Definitely not 100% today, little bit of snap missing, but overall I’m satisfied,” Kocher wrote. ” I had no idea what or where I could place. I’m sure that if I was a bit fresher, more is possible.”
She had little time to prepare, previewing the course for the first time during her warm-up.
Canadian National Team head coach Justin Wadsworth skied with her, offering some tips for the challenging Davos loop.
“[I] maybe was a bit too conservative at the beginning, but this helped me have a good last lap. I’m pretty satisfied as I really didn’t have any expectations for the day except to really thoroughly enjoy skiing,” Kocher said.
She added that it felt “sweet to not be lugging around 4 kg on my back [her rifle], but even more awesome to not have any negative emotions skiing extra penalty laps!”
Wadsworth was happy to have the biathlete join the team in Davos, telling FasterSkier that it was “pretty fun to have her here racing with us. I was really impressed with her just coming in from Biathon Worlds, arriving last night and not having ever skied the course before. She skied a good solid race…”
He added that there is currently no plan in place for Kocher to race more cross-country events but that “we will definitely try to be more collaborative with biathlon in the future.”
He pointed out that Kocher proved she could come in and ski at the level of the current Canadian distance women — close to the top-30. So he will look at future opportunities.
Kocher said she may race at Canadian Cross-Country Nationals in Whistler later in the season and that she is open to competing internationally.
“It would really benefit my ski speed in a biathlon race as well,” she said. “We have to pace a bit differently in biathlon because of shooting, but I think having the mentality to push hard and continuously is also important in biathlon.”
— Audrey Mangan contributed reporting.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.