by Chris Dornan
March 8, 2014, POKLJUKA, Slo. (ISN) – Canada’s biathletes showed no signs of fatigue coming off the 2014 Olympic Winter Games after Zina Kocher and Rosanna Crawford both climbed into the top-15 in a World Cup 10-kilometre pursuit competition on Saturday.
Flying under the radar heading into the recent Olympic Games, Kocher and Crawford, fed off the momentum gained in Sochi where the Canadian squad rattled off a series of personal best and record setting results, to put two women in the top-15 for the first ever on the World Cup.
“Being a lot more relaxed now that the Olympics are over has a lot to do with things I think,” said Kocher, whose best pursuit result was a fourth place four years ago also in Pokljuka. “My shape is still really good, I’m having fun and just going for it. It was tricky with the wind, but again I posted the number one fastest lap time which is a great confidence kick knowing that I’m still skiing very well. It was a great fight for both Rosanna and I, refusing to give up until the finish line.”
Athletes start the pursuit time-behind-the-leader of Thursday’s sprint race. Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., climbed 10 spots up the standings on a difficult shooting day for all competitors. The 31 year old stopped the clock at 34:35.3 (2+1+0+1). The 25-year-old Crawford, who has had one of the best seasons of her career, hurdled a trio of athletes into 14th place with a time of 34:49.5 (3+1+0+0).
“It was a bit of strange race today for me! Things started out really bad with three misses in my first prone. I find when I have bad first shooting or two the pressure is off a bit and it’s easier to hit the next 10-15 targets. It’s definitely something I need to work on,” said Crawford, who chalks this up to a personal best pursuit finish. “When I left the range there wasn’t anyone to close to me, but then Zina passed me on one of the uphills and I was like ok time to giver!”
Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen missed one shot in each of her last two rounds of shooting, but was able to hold onto the gold medal with a time of 32:01.0. Norway’s Tora Berger also missed two shots (1+0+1+0) en route to a silver medal time of 32:20.7, while Italy’s Dorothea Wierer rounded out the women’s podium in third at 32:55.5 (1+0+2+0).
The Canadian results this week, which also included rookie Emma Lunder’s top-30 sprint finish in her World Cup debut is being done on with a marginal staff.
“We are having incredible results with one World Cup coach, only one hard working wax tech with our other one ill and no therapists here,” said Kocher, whose cash-strapped squad is paying their own way for the final World Cups this season. “It’s pretty impressive what our team has pulled off this year considering the lack funds in our program. I can only hope we can change this around in the future. I know a slight increase doesn’t guarantee medals, but we are closing the gap and are oh so close to that podium!”
Lunder, of Canmore, Alta., was one of two other Canadian women on the start list Saturday. The rookie finished 41st at 36:52.1 (2+2+0+0). Two-time Olympian, Megan Heinicke of Prince George, B.C., placed 45th with a time of 38:24.2 (1+1+3+2).
Earlier in the day two Canadians earned a spot in the top-60 men for a 12.5 kilometre pursuit race.
Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., was the top Canuck in 26h spot with a time of 34:01.9. Green also battled on the rang missing five shots.
“It was a bit frustrating today because I was honestly hoping for a lot more today,” said Green. “Conditions have been challenging here all week with strong winds, especially this morning. I had too many shooting mistakes compared to the front of the field. My physical shape still seems quite good coming off the Olympics so I’m optimistic that I’ll have more good opportunities over the next coupe of weeks.”
Calgary’s Nathan Smith placed 36th with a time of 35:28.0 (1+1+0+1).
Russia’s Anton Shipulin missed just one shot to win the gold medal with a time of 31:02.8. Sweden’s Bjoern Ferry was second at 31:11.4 (1+1+0+0). Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen snagged the bronze medal with a time of 31:30.2 (0+1+0+1).
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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 Sports, Lapua, USANA, Nordic Marksman Inc, 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.