KONTIOLAHTI, Fin. (ISN) — Kurtis Wenzel skied into the history books as the first-ever Canadian to be crowned World Champion at the Biathlon Junior World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland on Tuesday.
The Calgarian missed just one shot in his four rounds of shooting to set the time to beat at 44:09.2 on an extremely difficult day in the junior men’s 15-kilometre individual competition where wind gusts played havoc in the minds of the world’s next generation of Olympians.
“This is very special for me,” said Wenzel. “I was pretty anxious before the race, but I did a good job of staying relaxed and calm today. The whole team did a great job and I’m really happy.”
Wenzel was joined on the podium by Norway’s Marius Hol in second at 44:52.0 (0+0+0+2), and Russia’s Alexandr Loginov, who clocked a bronze-medal time of 45:07.2 (1+1+1+0).
“I didn’t know where I could be today, but I knew I was in good form coming into the race,” added Wenzel. “I was shooting clean in training and I was skiing well.”
“Kurtis looked very much in control all week,” added Richard Boruta, coach, Biathon Canada. “From taking care of his training to nutrition needs to recovery, he executed perfectly.”
The individual event puts a focus on shooting. The longest distance the athletes compete in, the individual competition adds a one-minute penalty to the total time for every missed shot.
At just 21years old, Wenzel is no stranger to the international winner’s circle. A two-year member of Canada’s national junior biathlon squad, Wenzel won a gold and bronze medal at the 2009 Youth World Championships on his home track inCanmore.
But it has been anything but an easy road for the sharp-shooting Canuck. Wenzel took last year off from competing in biathlon after being diagnosed with Graves Disease – disorder that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland – which had an affect on his shooting. After support from family, friends and his entire ski club at Rocky Mountain Racers, Wenzel proved to himself and the world he is now back on track.
“I had lots of doubts after the 2010 World Championships,” said Wenzel. “I didn’t know if it was mental or physical. It is nice to be back and this is a special day.”
Two-time Olympian, Jean-Philippe Le Guellec was the last Canadian to win a Junior World Championship medal in an event that was not a relay. Le Guellec captured the bronze in the sprint competition in 2006. Canada’s junior athletes won a bronze in the men’s relay in both 2005 and 2007.
Three other Canadian men hit the start line. Calgary’s Aaron Gillmor finished 19th at 48:52.9 (1+1+0+2), Macx Davies, of Canmore, Alta., placed 72nd at 56:59.3 (4+3+3+2), while Jasper Mackenzie, of Kelowna, B.C., was 75th with a time of 57:27.9 (2+1+3+2).
Quebec’s Audrey Vaillancourt was the top Canadian in the junior women’s 12.5-kilometre individual competition. Vaillancourt missed four shots while posting a 15th-place time of 48:34.7.
Chardine Sloof, of the Netherlands, won the gold with a time of 43:44.5 (0+0+0+1), Poland’s Monika Hojnisz finished second at 43:51.0 (0+1+0+1), while Russia’s Elena Badanina locked up the bronze with a time of 44:19.2 (0+1+0+2).
Canada’s other results in the women’s event included: Emma Lodge, of Canmore, Alta., was 30th at 51:22.3 (0+3+0+4); Emma Lunder, of Canmore, Alta., finished 47th with a time of 54:41.2 (1+3+1+3); and Calgary’s Keely Macculoch was 50th at 55:12.0 (1+4+1+2).
The World Championships continue on Wednesday in Finland with the youth relay competitions.
Biathlon Canada, the governing body for biathlon in the country, oversees the Canadian Championships, Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, and North American Cups held in Canada. The organization’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 their Web site at www.biathloncanada.ca on the Internet.
Complete Results: www.biathlonworld.com