(ISN) – NOVE MESTO, Cze.—Nathan Smith cranked out a career-best seventh-place finish on the Biathlon World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Saturday.
The Calgarian shot clean en route to clocking a time of 24 minutes, 47.6 seconds in the men’s 10-kilometre sprint competition on the challenging Czech course that featured steep climbs.
“January was a tough month of shooting and I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall trying to knock the targets down,” said Smith. “Even though I was trying hard it just wasn’t happening. After the last World Cup I decided to take a week off shooting, and thought of some key points to focus on – relaxing into the position and slowing things down a touch. My skiing felt strong but I can definitely give a little more. The difference was shooting 10 for 10 today and I will try and reflect on that in the future.”
The 29-year-old Calgarian has been amongst a small group of Canadian biathletes turning heads around the world while quietly charging towards their first podium finish in one of Olympic sport’s most difficult medals to achieve.
“Rosanna (Crawford) had an amazing first trimester, and Brendan (Green) really came into his own in Ruhpolding and Antholz. All three of us have been very close to the podium the last couple of years, and it’s a bit of a friendly competition to see who will do it first,” said Smith.
Feeding off three top-15 finishes at his first Olympics last year, Smith has five top-10 finishes over the last two years on the World Cup. He finished eighth twice last year, and kicked off the post-Olympic year with a ninth-place finish at the season-opening sprint race in Oestersund, Sweden in December. Smith also rattled off three IBU Cup victories in 2012 when the feeder series made a stop to his home training centre in Canmore. He also has a bronze medal from the IBU Cup in Obertilliach, Austria.
“Today the top men shot amazingly well which makes for a very tough day to medal when you aren’t within the top-five or 10 skiers,” added Smith. “A medal may have been possible if I’d also had the ski of my life today, however, the odds of perfect shooting and skiing coming together are pretty low. A more likely way to grab a first podium is to put yourself in a position where you can capitalize on a day when the favourites falter.”
With all of the medal-winning athletes shooting clean in their two stops at the range, Smith finished just 12 seconds off the podium pace. Slovenia’s Jakov Fak won the race with a time of 24:09.9. Germany’s Simon Schempp skied to the silver at 24:22.7, while Jean Guillaume clocked-in at 24:35.9 to claim the bronze medal.
Three other Canadian men hit the start line on Saturday. Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., finished in 22nd spot after missing one shot in his final round of shooting. Green posted a time of 25:22.7. Macx Davies, of Canmore, Alta., was 54th at 26:30.8 (1+0), while Calgary’s Scott Gow placed 63rd with a time of 26:45.6 (2+0).
Quebec’s Audrey Vaillancourt was the lone Canadian to finish the women’s 7.5-kilometre sprint. Vaillancourt placed 66th at 24:43.1 (1+1).
The Biathlon World Cup continues on Sunday the Czech Republic with the pursuit events.