Day one of the Canadian World Cup and IBU Cup selections races took place at the Canmore Nordic Center on Thursday. The sprint race format consisted of three laps of the 3.4-kilometer Frozen Thunder loop for men, and three laps of the 2.4 k track for the women.
Cold temperatures dropping well below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) made the tracks hard packed and squirrelly for racers. The 10.2 k men’s race started at noon due to the cool morning with women’s 7.2 k following 45 minutes later.
In the men’s race, Biathlon Canada’s Nathan Smith claimed the first victory of the season, clocking in at 26:57 minutes. Despite two misses in his last bout of shooting, Smith maintained strong ski speed to land on top of the podium. Marc-Andre Bedard of Team Quebec was just 12 seconds with perfect shooting for second. Macx Davies (Biathlon Canada) rounded out the top three another 25 seconds back, with three penalties.
“Wasn’t looking for anything else than give my best and have fun!” tweeted Bedard after the race. The former Olympian has been focusing on obstacle racing for much of the year.
The women’s race saw national-team veteran Rosanna Crawford take the win, with just one miss and the fastest time of 23:35. Emma Lunder, a new member to Biathlon Canada and the Biathlon Alberta Training Center, also had one miss and fought to stay with Crawford on her final lap for second overall, 1:08 back. Audrey Vaillancourt, another national-team member as well as an Open European Championship winner, finished in third, 9 seconds behind Lunder, with two penalties.
“Chilly morning for our first of two races up at the Nordic Center, happy to hit 9/10 when it’s hard to feel your fingers!” Crawford posted on her facebook fan page.
Racing continues Friday with another set of sprints. Crawford, Smith and Brendan Green prequalified for World Cups 1, 2 and 3, and Scott Gow prequalified for IBU Cups 2 and 3 (although he’s aiming for a World Cup spot instead).
In all, Canada has eight male and eight female quota spots, with four from each gender being tapped for the World Cup and four selected to the IBU Cup after trials. Qualifiers are expected to have shot at least 80 percent in two races this year, and come within 90 percent of the average of the podium finishers’ times at trials. The high-performance committee will review all results and select the team based on results and consistency, with a major focus on trials but also including other considerations as well.
About the author: Evan Brian Paul Girard is a student, an athlete and an adventurer. He grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan called Oxbow with a population of about 1,200. Biathlon Saskatchewan’s provincial coach Doug Sylvester introduced him to the sport at age 17. Having never cross-country skied or shot a target rifle, Girard was nearly a decade of training behind his fellow competitors, and he spent the next two years training with Biathlon Saskatchewan. In the spring of 2013, he was accepted as a member of the high-performance team, Rocky Mountain Racers, based out of the Bow Valley in Canmore. In December 2013, he competed for Canada for the first time as a biathlete at the Winter Univerisade in Trentino, Italy.