megan bi

(ISN) – OESTERSUND, Swe.—It may not have been a podium, but Canada’s Megan Heinicke had the race of her life during the first individual competition of the season, placing 12th in Oestersund, Sweden on Thursday.

Feeding off a strong summer of training, the 26-year-old two-time Olympian was rock solid from start-to-finish in the women’s 15-kilometre competition. Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., clocked a time of 50 minutes, 18.5 seconds (50:18.5) in the soft, slushy snow and challenging downhills.

“I was able to race the IBU Cup last weekend which gave me a chance to test the waters and get the feel for racing again,” said Heinicke, who crushed her personal best barely cracking the top-30 in individual racing throughout her career. “The course was difficult today. There wasn’t a lot of rest for the legs in today’s race.”

Heinicke, who is one of a trio of Canadian women’s Olympic biathletes that have steadily been climbing up the international ranks over the last four years, was steady on the range missing just one shot in her four rounds of shooting.

“The key to success was being relaxed, not feeling any external pressure and truly being focused on a few key factors shooting,” added Heinicke. “I took my time in the shooting range, and just had one of those days where I was able to block out everything except for my keyword when I was standing on the mat. I’m heading into this season more relaxed and just thankful I’m able to pull together good performances.”

Heinicke’s Olympic teammate, Rosanna Crawford of Canmore, Alta., also kicked the season off with a bang, placing 16th in a deep international field. Crawford, also 26, finished just outside the top-15 in 16th spot after missing three shots.

“My skiing was a lot better than I expected. I was aiming for a top-30 today, so I’m pretty excited to finish in 16th,” said Crawford, who specializes in the shorter distance races. “Shooting is always important in an individual with one minute penalties. Unfortunately my brain got in the way on my last standing and I missed the first two shots. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Darya Domracheva, of Belarus held on to win the gold medal despite missing one shot in each of her final two stops at the range. Domracheva clocked a winning-time of 46:43.6. Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen was second at 47:11.5 (0+1+1+0), while Valj Skardino, of Ukraine, shot clean to win the bronze medal with a time of 47:21.7.

Two other Canadians also suited up in Oestersund, Swe. Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., was 76th at 56:19.3 (2+3+1+1). Quebec’s Audrey Vaillancourt placed 81st at 56:58.3 (1+1+3+0).

The Biathlon World Cup continues on Saturday in Sweden with the sprint competitions.