When Emma Lunder made her World Cup debut last season, she met with immediate success.
Taking advantage of a roster spot left open by Megan Imrie, who retired immediately after a successful Sochi Olympic appearance, the Canadian biathlete accrued a single penalty in her debut World Cup sprint race in Pokljuka, Slovenia, and placed 30th – scoring points on her very first try.
“I think one of the major factors in making a jump in results was believing in myself,” she wrote in an e-mail to FasterSkier last week. “Even though it was my first World Cup, I made sure to focus on the process rather than the outcome, and treat it like any other race I’d ever done. I think in the past I haven’t had as much confidence in racing, especially after bad races, where I’d really dwell on them, rather than taking lessons from them and moving on.”
Now Lunder is looking forward again. The 23-year-old was a many-time World Junior Championships competitor, but her World Cup result netted her a senior national team nomination for the first time. That has afforded her a few more opportunities in the off-season than she is used to having.
“My World Cup results last year qualified me for a development card, so that has made a world of a difference,” she explained, referring to the Canadian “carding” system of athlete assistance. “Having some financial stress lifted is such a relief. Even though it doesn’t cover a whole year of training, it’s enough that I was able to cut back at work (Starbucks) to just two days a week, and it’s meant I need a lot less financial support from my parents.”
A couple of sponsor partnerships are also in the works, she added.
Besides being named to Biathlon Canada’s “B” team, Lunder has signed on with the Biathlon Alberta Training Center, a Canmore-based team headed by former national team coach Richard Boruta.
That has given her solid training partners in Julia Ransom and Sarah Beaudry, younger women who each have a World Junior Championships individual medal to their name.
“To have a close group of female teammates has definitely been one of the main differences [this year], just for the fact that on so many workouts you’re able to push each other, and help each other ski faster then you would on your own,” Lunder wrote.
It’s also fun: one of the highlights of her summer was a team camp in Penticton, British Columbia.
“Our longest [bike] ride was the IronMan Loop, which ended up being 172km, and to be honest when we started I wasn’t sure if I’d complete the whole thing!” she explained. “But I did, with Sarah Beaudry by my side the entire 6 hours, and getting off the bike at the end was probably the best feeling in the world. We also did some rollerski intensity up Apex Mountain that week, rollerskied past thousands of vineyards, and went zip-lining!”
The national team nomination allows her to occasionally jump in with the older, more experienced women, like Rosanna Crawford and Zina Kocher (Canada’s other remaining Olympic veteran, Megan Heinicke, lives in Germany in the off-season). Lunder hopes that this experience will help her be even better-prepared when she returns to the World Cup.
“It’s definitely super beneficial for the younger team members to have some training with the Canadian veterans, as they have so much to teach us,” she wrote. “In Jericho [Vermont] I tagged along behind Rosanna for all of the intensity sessions which was really constructive for me.”
Lunder says that her goals for the upcoming season are more process-based: to ski faster and shoot cleaner, as “comedic” as it seems. The annual summer biathlon competitions in Jericho provided a clue of what’s to come: she placed ninth, the fourth Canadian, in the sprint, and sixth, the third Canadian, in the mass start.
“I didn’t race quite as well as I’d liked, but there were lessons I took out of both days,” she wrote. “It was such a good feeling to be racing again, and it got me pumped for the winter. I’m definitely looking for more World Cup action this season – there’s still quite a bit of time between now and then, so for now I’m trusting in the process, and looking forward for the first flakes to fall.”
And with the lure of another World Cup appearance on the horizon, Lunder is finding herself even more motivated than before: “Anytime I’m doing a really brutal workout, I just think to myself, if you can get through this, you’re one step closer to racing in Pokljuka again!”
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.