March 17, 2013, Whistler, BC (ISN) – Nathan Smith and Audrey Vaillancourt were first to strike gold in the opening day of competition at the North American and Canadian Biathlon Championships in Whistler, B.C. on Saturday.
Calgary’s 27-year-old Nathan Smith handily won the gold medal in the men’s 10 kilometre sprint despite missing two shots in his final stop at the range on a nasty day weather-wise at Whistler Olympic Park, forcing athletes to battle through rain, snow and slushy conditions. Smith, who had a breakthrough season in 2012 by winning four medals on the IBU Cup including three victories, clocked a time of 25:53.7.
“My whole focus after World Championships was to get ready for nationals and it was pretty good today,” said Smith, who collected his fifth senior victory at the premier domestic biathlon competition. “It was wet out there. I was soaked when I crossed the finish, but the race organizers did a great job on the course.”
Calgary’s Kurtis Wenzel shot clean while skiing to the silver medal with a time of 26:53.6. Bill Bowler, of the United States, posted the third fastest time at 27:11.7 (0+1).
“Even though a few of our World Cup guys are not here, I think it is good for guys like me and Kurtis to be here racing around the younger athletes who look up to us,” added Smith.
Two young Canucks gained a little extra mojo while rubbing shoulders with the elite athletes. Macx Davies, of Canmore, Alta., won the junior men’s sprint title after posting a golden time of 27:16.2 (1+1) in the 10-kilometre competition. Aidan Millar, of Canmore, Alta., won the youth men’s 7.5 kilometre sprint event with a time of 21:12.3 (0+1).
As the rain and snow continued to pound down at Whistler Olympic Park, the top women biathletes in the country hit the start line for a 7.5-kilometre sprint competition.
Quebec’s Audrey Vaillancourt had a perfect day on the range to finish on top with a time of 21:35.5. Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., placed second at 23:07.1 despite missing three targets in her final round of shooting. Corrine Malcolm, of the United States, placed third at 23:42.2 (1+1).
Quebec’s Rose-Marie Cote won the 7.5-kilometre junior women’s sprint with a time of 25:02.8 (0+4). Sarah Beaudry, of Prince George, B.C., was crowned the youth women’s national champion after setting the time to beat at 18:51.8 (1+1) in the six-kilometre sprint.
The North American and Canadian Biathlon Championships is the first event in the inaugural Sea to Sky Nordic Festival being held at Whistler Olympic Park. For the first time in Canadian history, the four Nordic disciplines’ championships will be carried out together at one venue. The spectacular winter season finale will brings together more than 800 athletes for two weeks of competition at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic venue.
Athletes will be in action again on Sunday with the pursuit competitions.
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, Roeckl 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.
Complete Canadian Championship Results: www.zone4.ca