(ISN) – OSLO, Nor.—Canada’s biathlon squad continues to round into top form with the highly-anticipated World Championships just weeks away. Nathan Smith and Megan Heinicke continued to enjoy some of the best results of their careers, both posting 12th-place finishes on Thursday as the World Cup rolled into Oslo, Norway.
Calgary’s Smith, who nearly climbed onto the podium for the first time of his career one week ago, was back battling with the world’s best in the men’s 20-kilometre individual race. The 29 year old missed just one shot in his final of four rounds of shooting to clock a time of 54:05.3, for his best ever individual race result.
“It actually wasn’t an easy day on the skis. The snow conditions were some of the most difficult I’ve experienced. I felt kind of tired, and not as strong as last weekend,” said Smith. “The snow
was breaking apart and getting very deep and sugary, which made it quite the grunt. Overall though. I’m really happy with another top result. I’m sure my skiing will pick up a little for
the weekend. My confidence is high in the shooting department.”
It sure is. Riding back-to-back races with perfect shooting, Smith was looking to extend his streak into Oslo. Earlier this season, Smith’s teammate, Brendan Green, set a new biathlon record for perfect shooting.
“I had Brendan’s 50 out of 50 record from earlier in the season in my mind today. We were joking around a little before the race that I would try and steal that glory away from him,” laughed Smith. “That didn’t quite happen, but 47 in a row is still a solid accomplishment. I was careful on the range and that resulted in a career best 19/20 shooting for an individual, as well as my best result in the 20 kilometre.”
All three medal winners were perfect on the range on Thursday. Martin Fourcade, of France, won the race with a time of 51:26.8. Russia’s Evgeniy Garanichev clocked a silver-medal time of 51:41.0. Sergey Semenov, of Ukraine, rounded out the podium in third at 52:15.6.
Canada’s Green, of Hay River, N.W.T., placed 44th at 5:28.0 (0+1+0+2). Calgary’s Scott Gow was 60th at 57:59.7 (1+1+1+0).
The strong results rolled into the women’s 15-kilometre individual race as three Canadians scrapped their way into the top-30, which has happened only twice before in the history of the sport.
Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., shot clean to post her second 12th-place individual result of the year with a time 48:02.1 to lead the Canucks.
“This was another fabulous result for Megan. She has been battling back from illness last week so her skiing was a little slower, but perfect in shooting made it a great day,” said Chris Lindsay, high-performance director, Biathlon Canada.
Rosanna Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., put together steady skiing and shooting to finish 28th at 40:02.0 (0+1+0+2), while Quebec’s Audrey Vaillancourt put down a career-best performance in 30th place. Vaillancourt also shot clean en route to clocking a time of 50:32.0.
Finland’s Kaisa Makarainen was perfect in shooting to post a winning time of 43:54.8. Darya Domracheva, of Belarus, was second at 45:13.1 (1+0+0+0), while Veronika Vitkova, of the Czech Republic, was clean shooting to win the bronze with a time of 45:15.7.
With a goal of peaking at the World Championships later this month, the Canadians are rounding into top form with nearly every athlete on the squad taking their turns posting career best results, while knocking on the door of the World Cup podium with a number of top-five finishes.
“With a lot of Biathlon Canada’s funding riding on World Champs, that’s the place where we would especially like to pull out our best results” added Smith. “Last year at the Olympics the men’s team
was really strong. Personally, my shape has been pretty consistent this year. I had a couple days with back pain in January, but that has settled now and with accurate shooting I feel I’m starting to reach my potential.”
The Biathlon World Cup continues in Norway on Saturday.