Zina Kocher Fires into Top-15 to Lead Canadian Biathletes in Sweden

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Chris Dornan

OESTERSUND, Swe.—Zina Kocher enjoyed a breakthrough performance in just her second World Cup start of the season when she finished 15th in a biathlon sprint competition in Oestersund, Sweden on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Kocher continued her torrid pace on the skinny skis despite continuing to find hersteady shot on the range to clock a time of 23 minutes, 4.8 seconds. The two-time Olympian from Red Deer Alta., missed three shots in two trips to the range. Athletes are forced to ski one penalty loop for every missed shot while exiting the range with the clock still running.

“My body just wants to go and I feel great on the skis right now,” said Kocher. “Shooting was difficult again today with the wind conditions. At times it was calm, but mostly, heavy gusts. I just wanted to go for it today and see what happens. I waited in prone on the wind, and in standing I just went for it. Risky – but it worked out okay.”

The nine-year veteran of the women’s biathlon program has fought her way into the top-15 with the world’s elite for the first time in an individual race discipline over the last two years.

“Every single race felt like a struggle last year, but I’ve just felt incredibly calm racing this week. I knew after the trials that my shape was much better than last year and that was a big relief,” said Kocher, whose best finish last year was 17th in a sprint. “I’m fighting like hell when I am skiing, but in a way it feels easy and natural. I’m just having a ton of fun. I want to get on the podium and win.”

Germany’s Magdalena Neuner won the women’s sprint with a time of 22:01.7. Norway’s Tora Berger was second at 22:01.9, while Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen skied to the bronze medal by stopping the clock at 22:16.9.

It was a breakthrough day of sorts for two other young Canadian women. Megan Imrie, of Falcon Lake, Man., fell just one spot shy of matching her career-best on the World Cup with a 33rd place result. The 25-year-old missed two shots en route to clocking a time of 23:54.3. Rosanna Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., also had a solid outing on Saturday. In just her third season on theWorld Cup, Crawford finished mid-field in 56th with a time of 24:57.7.

All three women will compete in Sunday’s pursuit competitions. Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., will be the lone Canadian male to compete in the men’s pursuit after his 14th-place result on Friday.

Biathlon Canada is the governing body for biathlon in the country and oversees the Canadian Championships, Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, and North American Cups held in Canada. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Millennium Geomatics Ltd., Apogée Sports, Kama, Auclair Gloves, Lapua, USANA, and Adidas Eyewear – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, Biathlon Canada’s mandate is to provide national level programs for the continuous development of biathlon athletes from the grassroots to the elite level. For more information on Biathlon Canada, please visit us at www.biathloncanada.ca on the Internet.

FOR COMPLETE RESULTS: www.biathlonworld.com

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