(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Christian Gow, who placed eighth on Wednesday in the men’s 10 k sprint.)
Canada’s Julia Ransom had wanted a top 10 — at least that’s what she wrote in an email on Tuesday after her first IBU Cup race of the season, the 15 k individual in Obertilliach, Austria.
And don’t get her wrong, she was pleased with 11th, which remained her best-ever result on the international circuit. But she couldn’t help but feel like she was close.
On Wednesday, Ransom, 21, of the Biathlon Alberta Training Center broke through in seventh with clean shooting in the women’s 7.5 k sprint in Obertilliach.
Tenth after the first stage, she improved to sixth with perfect shooting through the second stage. On the final lap, she posted the 15th-fastest course time to finish seventh, 46.3 seconds behind Italy’s Frederica Sanfilippo, who won in 20:40.4. The top-four women all cleaned.
“I am really excited with a 7th but more so with being so close to the podium,” Ransom wrote. “I wouldn’t change anything with shooting but I am going to work on finding every spare second on the course for Friday’s race [also a 7.5 k sprint].”
Ransom explained that her shooting lifted her to the career best, in which she spent the time on quality shots.
“I knew that I was in the mix for the top positions, but didn’t expect 3rd to tenth to be so close!” she wrote. “Made for a very exciting day. I crossed the finish line almost shocked… I think this may have been the first clean race I have ever had on the IBU cup circuit!
“At this point I know that a podium is within reach,” she added. “After that, a top 30 World Cup will be my next goal. For now, I am just going to focus on enjoying the races, mountains and sunshine.”
Ransom led teammates Audrey Vaillancourt in 41st (0+1), Emma Lunder in 64th (3+0), and Zina Kocher in 73rd (2+4).
In the men’s 10 k sprint, 21-year-old Christian Gow finished eighth to lead the Canadians. His older brother Scott Gow was 11th.
With a single prone penalty, Christian finished 35.8 seconds behind France’s Baptiste Jouty, who won in 25:53.8. Just two men in the top 10 cleaned: Germany’s Benedikt Doll in second and Tomas Vojik of the Czech Republic in 10th.
“I am ecstatic with the race today,” Christian wrote in an email. “Yesterday’s race gave me the confidence that I could achieve my dream goal of top 10, or maybe even top 5. However, I still wasn’t sure exactly how I would stack up since it is such a different race format … To finish in 8th place was incredible for me, and to see how close I am to the podium has brought even more purpose and excitement to my biathlon career.”
Before this week, his previous IBU Cup best was 31st.
“Since I haven’t raced at the international level since last February, it was hard to know how I would stack up against a strong field,” Christian explained. “I decided that if I finished the race and felt like I skied well, and shot up to my own standards, that I would be happy regardless of the placing.”
His season-long goal was a top 15, although “before I could worry about that I had to see if I was even in good enough shape to achieve that sort of result,” he wrote. “I was extremely happy with my first race. It was an incredible feeling to see just how close I am getting to the top of the field.”
After Wednesday’s race, his goals are a little loftier. “My ultimate goal for the season is to place top 3,” Christian wrote.
Scott Gow cleaned prone and had two standing misses to finish 0.2 seconds behind Vojik and 37.3 seconds back from Jouty.
“I am very happy with today’s race and have positives with yesterday’s race,” Scott said after placing 52nd with six penalties in the 20 k individual.“Yesterday I suffered with some bad shooting in 2 bouts which held me back, but I had decent skiing and otherwise good shooting to take away as a positive. Today was significantly better with great skiing, and decent shooting.
“My goals for today were to ski consistently and focus on shooting. I would say I accomplished my goals skiing and in prone shooting,” he added.
Teammate Macx Davies shot clean to finish 40.6 seconds back in 15th, and Carsen Campbell placed 59th with two penalties (1+1).
Scott noted that his brother, who led the Canadian men’s team on Tuesday in 18th, “is performing very well … He has been training hard all year and it is paying off for him. He was good on skis today and had good shooting bouts which put him up with the top IBU athletes. If he keeps it up he will have a very strong season this year,” Scott said.
“For the next two races my goal is to maintain good skiing and increase my shooting percentage,” he added. “If I can accomplish both of those goals then I believe I can see myself on the podium. The team is excited about having a strong mixed relay, and it will be important to execute my goals that day in particular to make sure our relay can have a great result.”
The IBU Cup continues in Obertilliach with men’s and women’s sprints on Friday and a mixed relay on Saturday.