Benjamin Weger remembered Canmore, Alberta, as a 19 year old, competing for the first time in Canada as a Swiss biathlete at the 2009 International Biathlon Union (IBU) Junior World Championships. There, he grabbed silver in the sprint and placed ninth in the pursuit.
The next year, Weger went one province west to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the 2010 Olympics. Results-wise, he didn’t come close to the podium on the world’s biggest-racing stage — placing 55th in the individual race and 69th in the sprint — but he returned to the IBU circuit the following season to notch his first World Cup medal, second in an individual race in December 2010.
Multiple World Cup podiums and another Olympics later, Weger, now 24, returned to Canmore with two teammates, Serafin Wiestner and Ivan Joller, to train for three weeks from July 4-July 26. Wiestner, 23, also competed in Canmore, where he placed 39th in the sprint (and went on to finish fifth in the Junior Worlds sprint in 2011).
In an email, Weger recalled meeting Biathlon Canada Head Coach Matthias Ahrens in Canmore in 2009. He extended an open invitation for the Swiss biathletes to come train with his team there any time.
“It was [such] a nice place with great tracks and nice nature,” Weger wrote. “There we said to come once in summer for training.”
Last season at the first IBU World Cup in Östersund, Sweden, Weger took Ahrens up on his offer. From there, the two coordinated a plan with Wiestner and Joller, 30, which involved several shooting-and-rollerski sessions with the Canadian biathletes on their home turf.
The three men stayed in Canmore with a Canadian wax tech, enjoying sights like the Calgary Stampede festival (rodeo), Banff, and a weekend trip to Jasper National Park, Weger explained. After, they were headed to the Yukon for a week of “fly fishing and relaxing,” and visiting a longtime friend of Wiestner.
“We did a lot of trainings with the Canadians in the shooting range and on the roller ski track, but also some nice tours on roller skis like near Banff to Lake Louise and than up to the Moraine Lake,” Weger wrote. They also joined one of the team’s sprint competitions.
Before the trip, Weger knew some of the Canadian men, but not very well.
“We talked sometimes together but not much,” he wrote. “Now we learned to know those guys better. We learned to know some young guys as well. They are all very motivated. That’s a cool team!”
In terms of a training venue, Weger explained Canmore is similar to his hometown in terms of elevation, around 1,300 meters above sea level. The weather in his mountain village of Geschinen can also be variable “from nice and warm to rainy and cold.”
But his experiences were different — even different from that of five years ago.
“Last time it was a competition, this time we are there for training,” Weger wrote. “This time we had more time so [we’re going to] see some different places. We had also more time to get to know people. And during the training we saw a lot of nice places along the roads during the roller ski, or very nice places in the nature during our hikes or running.”
In terms of goals, Weger wants to get back to the World Cup podium, where he was three seasons ago. At the Sochi Olympics, he placed 48th in the individual, 63rd in the sprint, and anchored his men’s relay to 14th with Claudio Boeckli, Joller and Wiestner.
“I want catch up to the best athletes in the World Cup,” Weger wrote. “To reach this I have to stabilize my shooting on a high level. And I have to improve and stabilize my skiing performance. To stay in a good health is the prerequisite for good results and this was the main problem in the last season.
“My Olympics were very bad,” he added. “Shooting performance was ok, but the skiing was the big problem. I think it was because I was not in good health.”
Weistner placed 40th in the Sochi sprint and 57th in the pursuit, and Joller finished 67th in the individual race.
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Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.
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