Last week, Brendan Green claimed the last spot on Canada’s Olympic Biathlon Team last week during during the IBU Cup races in Canmore, Alberta. The 27-year-old Northwest Territories native missed all of last season due to a back injury. He’s also the first biathlete from NWT more than 40 years to compete in the Olympic Games. Fasterksier caught up with him to find out how he’s feeling heading ingot he next part of a season that eventually take him to Sochi, Russia.
FS: What was your reaction when you found you had qualified for the Olympic team on the final day of national trials?
BG: It’s definitely been a really, really stressful last few weeks and to qualify finally is a huge relief. It definitely feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders for sure.
FS: It seems like a lot of athletes who are working to qualify say they’re relieved when it finally happens. Why do you feel relieved?
BG: I think the pressure and expectation that comes around it. I guess for me things really started to kind of ramp up a couple months ago once we got snow and when we were closer to the season starting and once you start racing, everyone is racing for that qualification. Olympic years always have a bit of a different energy. It’s pretty high stress, pretty high pressure. For sure there was [also] excitement, but I can take a deep breath after and finally relax.
FS: There’s some historic significance to your qualification. Is it true you’re the first athlete from the Northwest Territories to qualify since the Firth Twins did so in the 1970’s?
BG: I raced in the Vancouver [Olympics] in 2010, so at that point I was the first northern athlete to qualify in 26 years. The last time the north has had two NWT athletes represented was in the 70’s. The Firth sisters were the last Olympians.
FS: What’s it like to claim that last spot on Canada’s Olympic team? Is it hard to compete with your teammates for one final spot?
BG: it’s definitely a strong group of guys that we have this year on the team and we were all hungry to chase after that last spot. For myself, it was a bit of a different story. I missed all of last year due to a back injury and I spent the entire season recovering from a couple spinal surgeries and I was in rehab. I missed out on a whole year of eligible qualification but the year prior to that, I had met the maximum amount of criteria that I could, so to come in to this season, I was two thirds qualified and to seal the deal internationally and have a top finish on the World Cup… it was a little tough because I lost my World Cup eligibility, so I had to start at the bottom on the IBU Cup and then race my way across. I had some good results there and then after the podium on the IBU Cup, I got one chance on the world Cup to start and I kind of got one chance to meet my international criteria and I finished the race in 31st, one tenth of a second off. That’s kind of tough to miss out on it by that small of a margin and then the pressure increased because I knew I would have to come home and prepare for trials. So, yeah. It was pretty intense the last few weeks. [There were] some highs and lows and that sort of a thing, so to finally seal the deal is a pretty sweet feeling.
FS: After missing the last season and dealing with your back injury, did you come into this season with a goal to qualify for the Olympics?
BG: There were a lot of question marks about how things were going. It was a goal definitely to qualify for the Olympics, but at the same time, not knowing how my back would hold up or anything… Just prior to my injury, I was having the best season and the best results of my career, so I knew the potential was there but it was just a matter of having to psych myself up and and get an idea of how good of shape I was in. I got glimpses of what kind of shape I was in and I was kind of on my way back and able to compete at the elite level, so I guess it’s fair to say the Olympics was the goal all along.
FS: Physically, are you feeling like you are where you want to be now that you know you will be competing in Sochi in February?
BG: I hope so. The training this year has gone fairly well. It was modified a little bit because there’s a few activities I can’t really do, but for the most part, I have done the training I need to do. We’ve done the VO2 Max tests and the kind of things we do every year and based off those test, I’m performing similar to how I was, maybe even a little bit stronger. So, I guess I can take confidence away from that. Early season is always hard to tell. Historically, I usually have a little bit of a slow start and ramp up as the season goes, so if that’s the case now, it would work out perfectly in Sochi, but it’s a little hard to tell at the moment. We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks and we’ll have a better idea then.
FS: How are you feeling about the rest of the season? Do you have specific expectations for the games in Sochi?
BG: At the moment, I finally feel like I can relax for a little bit and enjoy the holidays. Definitely now the focus is on a strong performance in Sochi. I guess in terms of performance expectations, prior to my injury my top results were a couple of top tens on the World Cups. I guess if I could match that, I’d be super happy for sure. It’s hard to say how I will shape up and improve for Sochi, but I’m definitely going in with an expectation of a stellar result and if I could perform to a similar potential that I was racing prior to my injury, that would be a pretty big success for me.
FS: Last year the World Cup took athletes to Sochi to compete on that course. Do you feel like that is a disadvantage for you?
BG: I actually was able to make the trip over there last year and preview the course during the World Cup, I was able to train there for 10 days or so and I helped out with the waxing side of things. I got an idea of what things are like. It’s definitely a challenging course, no doubt, but it’s not entirely new. I know what to expect and over the summer and the fall we’ve been trying to gear the training a little more toward that type of course and we were able to to do course simulation on the treadmill. I think I have an idea of what I’m in for and it’s definitely challenging for sure, but I think I’ll be as ready for it as I will be.
FS: You’re dating Rosanna Crawford, who will also be competing in Sochi. The two of you have crowd-sourced your fundraising efforts together to get to Sochi and you might even race on the mixed relay together. What was her reaction when you finally qualified?
BG: Yeah, so the fundraising passed just as the season started and that was super successful for us, which was pretty neat. Just the way word spread that was cool. I think it’s been a stressful week for her watching me race and cheering me on. It was great to have her support. She has a pretty outgoing personality, so yeah it was funny, I’d turn a corner or go down a hill and she’d be on the climb. She was definitely nervous for sure, but I think we’re both relieved and super happy to be able to share the experience together… definitely excited about it for sure.
Emily Schwing is a public radio reporter in Interior, AK. She normally writes about athletes of the four-legged kind. When she's not chasing dog teams, skiers and local news, she's breaking trail on her rock skis with a dog name Ghost. Follow her on Twitter @emilyschwing