Two years ago, Biathlon Canada knew exactly whom to recruit for its women’s roster. A junior skier with seven top-10 finishes including a silver medal at 2012 Youth World Championships, Julia Ransom was a no-brainer. By the end of the 2012-2013 season, Ransom, originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, was offered the opportunity to represent Canada in every competition she entered.
Ransom, however, had other plans.
Having spent the previous four years working with Richard Boruta of Biathlon Alberta and seeing solid results in her skiing, Ransom, now 23, did not want to give up what she and Boruta had built. She was also worried about the teammates she would leave behind: Sarah Beaudry and Emma Lunder.
“I was approached by the national team … I said no I don’t want to,” Ransom recalled during a recent phone interview from her training base in Canmore, Alberta. “[I said,] ‘I’m with Richard and really happy with Richard, and I’ve got a great group of girls and I don’t want to go to the national team.’ ”
Ransom declined her spot and continued to train with Boruta for another year. That season she earned three top-10 results at 2014 Junior World Championships in Presque Isle, Maine, just missing the podium in fourth in the junior women’s 10-kilometer pursuit.
Following these performances, Ransom was once again approached by the national team prior to the start of the next season. This time, however, national-team coach Roddy Ward won her over.
“They [Biathlon Canada] actually sat me down and were like, ‘OK, seriously, we’re going to move [Sarah Beaudry and Emma Lunder] up.’ You don’t just turn this down,” Ransom explained. “I wanted to be with all the girls because we work really well together … I’m glad that I stuck with Richard for as long as I did, but the change was also good.”
In 2015, Ransom raced a handful of World Cups and made her senior World Championships debut while also competing on the second-tier IBU Cup circuit.
Last season was Ransom’s full year on the World Cup, and she earned a breakthrough result after finishing 19th in the women’s 10 k pursuit in Antholz, Italy. She later tied that at a home World Cup in Canmore.
And she made good on her second trip to World Championships, finishing 20th in the 15 k individual.
Entering her second year on the national team and selected to the newly named ‘Eh!’ Squad this spring, Ransom is also currently attending school at the University of Athabasca, working toward a bachelor’s degree of management with a major in marketing.
“I wouldn’t describe myself as a complete academic, but I really love learning,” Ransom explained. “So keeping up with current events I find really valuable. Mainly also to not be focused on skiing all the time because it’s nice to have other things.”
Ransom has plenty of “other things” that hold her attention, including her education, volunteering with the Canmore Nordic Biathlon Bears program, and spending time with her eight nieces and nephews, one of which has Trisomy 18.
“I think it’s 1 in 6,000 babies make it to birth with this genetic condition, and then past that it’s 10 percent of those make it to their first year and 5 percent of the 10 percent make it to five years,” Ransom said of her niece Isla, who is now 7 years old.
“Seeing her makes you realize what happiness is all about,” she continued. “It’s not about the perfect race. It’s not about the finances. It’s not about the anything. For her it’s just about living to the next day and that’s a nice reminder to have. Appreciating life and appreciating everything you have now.”
The verve of kids like Isla and the skiers in the Canmore Nordic Biathlon Bears program keep Ransom’s sport in perspective.
“I really love kids and working with kids I think is just so much fun,” Ransom said of her volunteer work. “It’s also really refreshing to experience your sport in way that’s, it’s totally different. It’s 100 percent fun focused. And I try to go at least 95 percent super fun focused in my own training … at the very core of it, [skiing] is supposed to be fun.”
We asked Ransom to give our ’17 Questions for 2017′ a go. Here are her responses:
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?Since the ski season ended, the only big change has been that of my address! My wonderful roommates and I moved up closer to the Nordic Centre. No matter how much one can prepare for a move, it’s never easy. Especially when you are in New Zealand for the month before you receive the keys!
2. Biggest change in your training?
There haven’t been many drastic changes. I have simply been focusing on improving weaknesses and polishing up strengths, day by day, with the goal of seeing big changes where it counts on the race track!
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
I’ve seen pretty big jumps in my strength, power, speed. This year I was focusing on those areas and I’m very happy with how it’s come along.
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
This year our team has split more into Men’s and Women’s teams to accommodate our different needs. Our women’s team (and of course, coach Roddy Ward) has really bonded this year and has created a super strong training group that I love being a part of every day.
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
Best trip was by far New Zealand. My boyfriend came down to help out the team with waxing and range work and we were able to sneak in a little vacation on the North island before the camp started. We rented a van and travelled where ever we pleased, picnicking on beautiful beaches and enjoying the North Island at our own pace. The three weeks of training afterwards was also fantastic. Probably some of best snow conditions we’ll see all winter!
6. Favorite cross-training?
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
I love to cook and eat with others, especially when we are pairing fresh, local food with wine. Growing up in the Okanagan, I have developed a passion for wine and really enjoy reading and learning about different regions, varietals, tasting notes, etc.
8. Song that was your jam this summer?Roses- The ChainsmokersNever Be Like You – Flume Ft. Kai
9. All time favorite race moment?
Favorite race moment was during the World Cups in Canmore. It was hearing my mom and dad cheering and seeing my mom tear up when I had a career best result.
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
Fresh coffee beans, a grinder, and aeropress.
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
I am really excited to see Pyeong Chang! I have never raced in Asia and am looking forward to the change.
12. Who will win the men’s and women’s World Cup titles this year?
This year, I am betting on Johannes Bø and Dorothea Wierer
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?The biggest sacrifice I’ve made has been delaying my education, giving up university running scholarships, and being apart from my boyfriend. That being said, I am happy with my decision and have no regrets.
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
I would change the mentality of those who still think it’s okay to dope. Clean sport should be the reality but unfortunately it’s still a struggle our sport faces.
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Red river cereal with blueberries, coconut, and Hemp Hearts. And coffee. Always coffee.
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
In 5 years I hope to have an Olympics under my belt and my business degree well completed!
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.