(ISN) – NOVE MESTO, Cze.—The personal best finishes keep coming as Canada’s Nathan Smith keeps inching closer to his first career podium on the Biathlon World Cup.
The 29-year-old Smith completed the best weekend of his life, shooting clean for the second straight day to finish fifth in the men’s 12.5-kilometre pursuit competition. The laid-back Calgarian clocked a time of 37 minutes, 49.0 seconds on the steep course in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Sunday.
“These are my first back-to-back cleans of my career. I came close last year in Sochi (29/30), but today is extra special because it is the first 20/20 clean of my biathlon career,” said Smith, who was also perfect on the range in Saturday’s sprint. “It feels awesome to have that success. It makes skiing less of a chore, and you’re excited to get back to the range after the next lap.”
Starting time behind the leader in seventh spot based on Saturday’s career-best sprint finish, the 2014 Olympian took many of the greatest names in the sport head on, and did not back down, in the tactical pursuit race that pits man against man rather than primarily against the clock.
“Today was a little unlucky for me as the top-three men were basically the Overall World Cup leaders,” added Smith. “If a couple of them faltered I could have been there, but it is tough to beat the best when they are on 100 per cent. I know though if you’re only a couple of places off the podium enough times, one day it will happen.”
Slovenia’s Jakov Fak held off all chasers to win the gold for the second straight day, clocking a time of 37:24.9 despite being forced to ski the 150-metre penalty loop for missing one shot in his final trip to the range. Germany’s Simon Schempp also missed one shot en route to winning the silver medal with a time of 37:29.3 (0+1+0+0). Martin Fourcade, of France, was clean in shooting, winning the bronze medal with a time of 37:38.2.
Two other Canucks qualified for the pursuit race with the top-60 athletes. Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T. was 30th at 40:37.9 (0+1+0+2), while 22-year-old World Cup rookie, Macx Davies of Canmore, Alta., had a tough day shooting to finish 54th at 46:26.4 (2+3+2+2).
A program that struggles to find financial support, and often flies under the radar, has definitively been raising some eyebrows in the Canadian sport community over the last 24 months.
The impressive finish by Smith makes him the third Canadian biathlete this year alone to post a fifth-place result. Just two weeks ago, Brendan Green sprinted to his career-best fifth place finish. Green’s girlfriend, Rosanna Crawford of Canmore, Alta., got her season off to a blistering start with a fourth and fifth-place result on the World Cup. Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., has also rattled of a number of personal bests during the post-Olympic year.
“Coming into the season I knew us three were capable of these results,” said Smith. “Our younger guys are also posting strong results, and there is no doubt in a few years they’ll be up there with us too.”
Smith has been a model of progression over the last two years, steadily working his way up the elite international biathlon standings. He made his Olympic debut in 2014 where he chalked up three top-15 finishes, Smith first turned heads on the IBU Cup development circuit where he celebrated three victories and a bronze medal.
The Biathlon World Cup now travels to Oslo, Norway.