RUHPOLDING, Germany – Jean Philippe Le Guellec is usually a pretty good shooter. How else could the Canadian have won a biathlon World Cup sprint last season and placed fourth in the opening individual competition of this season, something deemed a shooter’s race?
But in the 20 k individual here on Saturday, he lost focus for an instant, and things fell apart. With three shooting stages completed, Le Guellec had a single penalty and was ranked in the top 30. A clean final stage would have placed him 13th.
Instead, he missed three shots.
“Everything was going good yesterday until that standing,” Le Guellec wrote in an e-mail on Sunday. “It’s pretty much an isolated event.. beginners’ mistake even. It’s like I vizualised the bout just before coming in the range and then my brain just shut off and I was on autopilot… and the end result was what it was…”
Luckily, he managed to sneak into the top 60 anyway, placing 52nd, and qualify for the 12.5 k pursuit the next day. There, Le Guellec knew how to turn things around. He shot flawlessly, hitting all 20 of his targets and moving from 52nd to 32nd.
“The approach today was simply to stay present (like I usually am) for every bout and do like I’ve worked on during Christmas, which visibly paid off and I’m totally stoked!” he wrote.
The Canadian team had recently arrived back in Europe from Canada, and Le Guellec felt better and better on his skis as the week went on as well. He had the 35th-fastest ski time in the individual and the 34th-fastest in the pursuit.
“I felt a good deal better on the skis too, which helped,” he wrote. “I’ve been having a hard time getting over jetlag this week and felt a little off bit in [Thursday’s] relay and the individual, although the ski times were respectable. So it was nice to feel a little more energetic today.”
Team Canada had a much-improved day in the pursuit in general, with Nathan Smith using a single penalty to climb to 16th place, tying the second-best result of his career.
“As a whole, the team did awesome today with solid shooting and skiing,” Le Guellec wrote. “[Smith] getting up in the top 16 again is totally sweet. Definitely motivating with the approach of game time in a few weeks.”
Game time? After getting the errors out of his system, Le Guellec, who placed sixth in the sprint at the last Olympics in Vancouver, is feeling more ready for Sochi.
“Moving into Sochi, I’m happy to see things I worked on during Christmas pay off already (more noticeably in shooting),” he wrote. “The plan now is to simply race the relay in Antholz and get a solid block of training in since it was cut short by the extreme cold back home before leaving for Europe… All in all, still some things to work on, but I think we’re all in a good place right now. Just have to keep working it and stay focused!”
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.