Scott Gow’s been to the IBU World Cup, raced at 2013 World Championships and multiple — as in five — Junior World Championships. But nothing beats getting on the podium.
Gow, 24, got there on Friday in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint in Obertilliach, Austria, cleaning both stages to finish just 1.6 seconds behind French winner Baptiste Jouty and 1.3 seconds behind runner-up Florian Graf of Germany.
He led a contingent of four Canadian men, with his brother placing 17th (+55.3) with a single prone penalty, Macx Davis in 53rd (+2:29.1) with two standing misses, and Carson Campbell in 83rd with two prone and two standing penalties.
In an email, Gow, who finished 11th in the 10 k sprint two days ago, explained he was “so happy” with his end result on Friday.
“Being able to shoot clean made it feel like a perfect day,” he wrote. “I had a good race on Wednesday that I was able to feed off a little bit skiing-wise, and I have been focusing a lot on shooting the past two weeks which all contributed to my result today.”
His focus was shooting, first and foremost.
“I was confident that my skiing was there, but I needed solid shooting if I wanted to break into the top 10 and have a chance at a medal,” Gow wrote. “I was ecstatic when I cleaned standing, and I knew I would be in the hunt.”
He had heard that he was nine seconds back in fifth, but Gow was unsure how close the top three were.
“I mean, how hard would it have been to pick up 1.6 seconds somewhere in the race?” he wrote. “Despite the tight finish I’m happy with 3rd and the renewed confidence for the next trimester.”
As to whether he had any motivation to beat his younger brother, who placed eighth on Wednesday, Gow wrote, “I’m always motivated to beat my brother, but I was happy to see him have 3 good races. He did really well in Wednesday’s sprint, so he has a lot of confidence going for him as well.”
In the women’s 7.5 k sprint, Canada’s Audrey Vaillancourt cleaned to place seventh, 20.7 seconds behind Ukrainian winner Iryna Varvynets. Wednesday’s sprint winner, Italy’s Federica Sanfilippo placed second, 4.6 seconds back with a single penalty, while Varvynets hit all her targets.
After starting her season on the World Cup, Vaillancourt, 23, placed 41st on Wednesday and 49th in Tuesday’s 15 k individual.
In an email, she explained she was mostly disappointed to be missing out on the IBU World Cup this week. She arrived in Obertilliach on Monday.
“I knew there was no point in being sad or angry all week, so I tried as best as I could to let go, put a smile on my face and focus on my races here,” Vaillancourt wrote. “Until today my races were not going so well — I had not been shooting as well as usual, and I had not had really good feeling on the skis. I wanted to do well enough to stay on the World Cup, maybe even wanted it too much. I think I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself and that probably affected my performances in the wrong way.”
But working with coach Ferréol Cannard, a former French team biathlete who’s been assisting the Canadian IBU Cup team in Europe, helped with her shooting, she explain.
“He took time with every athlete to go over their strengths and weaknesses,” Vaillancourt explained. “Right before my race, he asked me whether I had shot 10/10 before. I said yes, and he told me there was no reason not to do it today then.”
She wanted to start strong, and did so, trying to hold it through the finish. After cleaning her final stage, Vaillancourt heard her wax techs tell her she was fighting for a podium.
“… Until the last lap … I really died!” she wrote. “But I’m still glad I tried that strategy, I still made top ten after all! I really needed today’s result, not to prove anything to anyone, but just for myself. I’m very glad I finished on such a good note before Christmas.”
Vaillancourt led fellow Canadian Julia Ransom, who placed 18th, 1:01.1 behind the winner with her second-straight clean race. Zina Kocher finished 25th and Emma Lunder was 60th, both with two penalties.
IBU Cup racing in Obertilliach wraps up with the mixed relay on Saturday.