by Chris Dornan
March 15, 2014, KONTIOLAHTI, Fin. (ISN) – One by one Canada’s biathletes are taking their turns stepping up and posting career best results, while flirting with the World Cup podium.
On Saturday, Calgary’s Nathan Smith took his turn to lead the Canadian charge while having the race of his life where he was eighth in a World Cup sprint race in Kontiolahti, Finland with a time of 24:37.1. It was the second eighth-place finish this season, and first in a sprint race.
“Excellent skiing was definitely the difference maker for me today,” said Smith, who missed one shot in two rounds of shooting. “I’ve had a handful of comparable ski speeds and missing one is not too out of the ordinary for me. I’ve only been able to combine my best shooting and skiing a few times this year so this was a great day.”
The 28 year old has been battling illness since making his Olympic debut in Sochi two weeks ago.
“I was happy to be feeling good finally after the Olympics,” added Smith. “I came down with a bad cold the last few days, and was still suffering from it until a few days ago. My race earlier this week was good so I knew I was starting to come out of the sickness slump.”
Norway’s Johannes Thinges Boe shot clean to win the gold at 24:03.5. Russia’s Alexander Loginov was also clean with a time of 24:22.0. Lowell Bailey, of the United States, grabbed the bronze with a perfect day of shooting and a time of 24:22.9.
Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., was 36h at 25:26.8 (2+0), while Calgary’s Scott Gow placed 57h at 25:52.3 (1+0).
The stellar result builds on one of the best winters ever for the Canadian Biathlon Team where nearly ever member of the squad has found their way into the top-15 and many into the elusive top-10. In addition to posting a historic fourth-place finish in the team relay prior to the holiday break, the Canadian women put two athletes in the top-15 for the first time ever last week. They accomplished the feat again on Thursday in Finland with Rosanna Crawford and Megan Heinicke finishing 13th and 15th respectively.
“These results are unprecedented for our program, and I believe in addition to the relentless commitment of our athletes, began with a focused identification of young talent more than 10 years ago,” said Chris Lindsay, high-performance director, Biathlon Canada. “On very limited budgets, our athletes have matured and developed, are now rubbing shoulders with the best in the world. I also believe, albeit being small compared to leading nations, we have a tireless group of coaches and wax techs that are squeezing tremendous performance from our athletes. The system is in place – we are close to the podium – and with a little more support from corporate partners we all know we can be there.”
Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., was back at it again on Saturday leading the Canadians with a 16th place finish. Crawford missed one in her second round of shooting to clock a time of 21:47.6 in the women’s 7.5-kilometre sprint.
Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen won the gold with a time of 20:53.6 (1+0). Norway’s Tora Berger was perfect on the range to claim the silver medal at 20:59.8. Gabriela Soukalova, of the Czech Republic, snagged the bronze with a perfect day of shooting and a time of 21:06.5.
Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., was 54th at 23:09.6 (2+1). Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., placed 60th at 23:26.3 (1+1).
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Finland with the pursuit competitions.
For complete results, please visit http://services.biathlonresults.com/DataCenter_IBU.aspx
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.