(ISN) – CANMORE, Alta.—Many of the nation’s top biathletes have returned to Canada to defend their home snow as Biathlon Canada hosts IBU Cup 7 and 8 at the Canmore Nordic Centre, February 28 to March 7, 2015

Led by Olympians Zina Kocher (Red Deer, Alta.), Scott Perras (Regina), and Marc-André Bédard (Valcartier, Que.), Canada will field a total of 14 athletes (seven men and seven women), while playing host to 18 nations for a series of five elite international competitions, February 28 – March 1, and then the following week March 4, and 6-7. Athletes will compete in three sprint competitions, one individual event, and a mixed relay.

“It will be great to race at home,” Kocher said. “Canmore typically has fast conditions because of the man-made snow. It sets a really hard pack. The course is in top shape for fast speeds and the times will be really tight, because it’s not a course that really divides people. There aren’t any huge hills, but you’re working all the time. “

Five World Cup medal-winning athletes from Germany and Norway will be in the field. Other Canadians represented include: Claude Godbout (Quebec); Emma Lunder (Vernon, B.C.); Leilani Tam Von Burg (Ottawa) Erin Yungblut (Wroxeter, Ont.),Melanie Schultz (Canmore, Alta.); and Sarah Beaudry (Prince George, B.C.) in the women’s races. On the men’s side, Canada will also suit up Macx Davies (Canmore, Alta.), Matthew Neuman (Prince George, B.C.); Matthew Hudec (North Battleford, Sask.); Andrew Chisholm (Calgary); and Aidan Miler (Canmore, Alta.)

The IBU Cup, which is a feeder series to the World Cup with the top biathletes on the globe competing in both circuits, marks the return of major international biathlon competitions to Canada. Since the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, Canada has previously hosted the IBU Cup in 2012, along with the 2009 and 1992 Youth and Junior World Championships as well as World Cups in the 1990’s. Canada will host a World Cup race in 2016.

“Hosting international competitions at home is a critical component to growing our sport across the country, and we hope Canadians will join us in what promises to be an entertaining week of competition,” said Chris Lindsay, high-performance director, Biathlon Canada.

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Saturday, February 28 Wednesday, March 4

10 a.m. – Men’s Sprint Race 9 a.m. – Women’s Individual Race
1 p.m.– Women’s Sprint Race 12:30 p.m. – Men’s Individual Race

Sunday, March 1 Friday, March 6
10 a.m. – Men’s Sprint Race 10 a.m. – Women’s Sprint Race
1 p.m. – Women’s Sprint Race 1:30 p.m. – Men’s Sprint Race

Saturday, March 7
10 a.m. – Mixed Relay