NOVÉ MĚSTO NA MORAVĚ, Czech Republic – Things in Saturday’s sprint races didn’t exactly go as planned for Canada’s traditional top scorers.
“I have no idea what happened,” Rosanna Crawford told FasterSkier after finishing 77th with three penalties. “My shooting has abandoned me. I don’t know what’s going on. It was the same wind as my zero, so I’m sure I just pulled the shots. I felt a lot better. It would have been a good race if it weren’t for the shooting. But that’s the way it goes in biathlon, you’ve got to do both.”
She was narrowly edged by teammate Zina Kocher, who placed 74th with four penalties. In fact, the only Canadian woman to qualify for the pursuit was Megan Heinicke, who squeaked in with a 54th-place finish and two penalties.
Things were only a bit better for the men, with Jean Philippe Le Guellec left frustrated after missing three shots; he said he had “mixed feelings” as he skied well enough to place 36th, better than he would have expected from that performance on the range.
“It’s really disappointing in that respect, but skiing was awesome, so I guess as far as preparation for here and preparation for next year, it will just be a question of working on the shooting,” Le Guellec said.
Like Crawford, he didn’t really know where he had gone wrong – which is never a good feeling.
“It was a little more windy then at zero, so I kind of compensated instead of correcting, but I guess I didn’t shade enough with my first round in prone,” he explained. “But then I hit my next four. Then in standing I opted to go on the earlier lanes, just to stay out of the wind, but then I went and missed two anyway. So I don’t know, maybe it was too soon after the ski effort.”
Scott Perras and Nathan Smith missed the pursuit in finishing 66th and 73rd; instead the youngest member of the team, Scott Gow, will join Le Guellec after placing 45th.
“I’m super excited,” said Gow, who is competing at his first World Championships. “This was more or less my ultimate goal for the season, to move from the IBU Cup to getting that World Cup spot and then hopefully to World Championships, so overall, I’m happy I made it and happy to have a good race. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Gow doesn’t even have much World Cup experience, so being in the deafening roar of the stadium seems pretty foreign. He’s been trying not to think about the added pressure – which clearly worked today.
“I try to just pretend that it’s like racing at home, but it’s a little overwhelming at times,” he admitted. “I don’t know how I did it. I just came out to training and to race like, don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it. Don’t worry about the crowds or the enormous amount of people or any of that stuff. It has paid off so far.”
Like Gow, Audrey Vaillancourt is completely new to the hubbub of World Championships. She only started racing the World Cup after Christmas.
“It’s really a shock,” she said. “It’s huge, the difference. It’s so much faster here. You have to be strong and have really good shooting to do well here. It’s a big step.”
Vaillancourt finished 83rd; although she had been “really hoping” to make the pursuit, she said she couldn’t claim to have had a bad race.
“The caliber is so high here,” she said. “My goal this year was to be here, so I’m just really glad I made it.”
She hopes to refocus for the individual, where she thinks she has a better shot.
“The individual is really a different race,” she said. “Anything can happen. I’m really looking forward to it – my shooting has been really good since Christmas, only today in standing I’m not sure what happened. But it will be fine again.”
Also hoping to improve in the individual will be Perras, who when he talked to FasterSkier was on the bubble of making the pursuit. He ultimately ended up just outside the 60-man cutoff. He said that after a “pretty rough” mixed relay, he felt much better on his skis, and that the pre-Championships training camp had prepared him well.
“It’s always tricky because I find I ski a lot better off of volume, but there wasn’t exactly a lot of time to get in volume,” he said. “So we focused on intensity and had some good time trials. The conditions for the time trials were pretty tough, so it was good practice for here.”
Before he takes a crack at the individual, though, his three teammates will get to race the pursuits. Le Guellec may have had his best chance at a medal in the sprint, a format that he won earlier this year at the Ostersund World Cup – but despite that prior success, he said he hadn’t put that much more pressure on himself.
“I came out today and just wanted to do my thing, and it’s unfortunate that no matter the tactics I used in the range it didn’t pay off at all, so that’s really disappointing, but that’s how it goes,” he said.
He has made friends with the difficult courses here, so anything could happen in the pursuit.
“I love the course,” he said. “It reminds me of home – it’s a grunt, it’s a hard course, but at the same time it has a nice flow to it. You work hard for it. It’s fun.
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.