—Sharp-shooting Canuck misses just one shot in opening round of prone shots—
RUHPOLDING, Ger.—One missed shot may have been the difference today for Canada’s Nathan Smith climbing back onto the biathlon World Cup podium.
Smith, who turned 30 on Christmas Day, enjoyed a stellar day with a sixth place finish in the men’s 12.5-kilometre pursuit race after clocking a time of 34 minutes 4.1 seconds. The Calgarian missed only one shot in his first stop at the range, and was then perfect in his final three rounds of shooting.
“I’m super happy with it. The best part is I shot clean on my last standing. I have had trouble with it a few times this year when I had the opportunity to finish in the top-six,” said Smith. “I worked on that a lot over Christmas, and I’m glad today I did that five out of five.”
One of the most spectator friendly disciplines on the Biathlon World Cup, athletes are forced to ski a 150-metre penalty loop for every missed shot in the pursuit.
Starting in 15th spot, nearly one minute behind the leader of Friday’s sprint race, the laid back Smith hammered the pace and knocked one target down after another to bolt up the leaderboard in a game of cat and mouse with the world’s best biathletes including Friday’s sprint winner Johannes Thingnes Boe under soft and mild conditions.
“It was really difficult today. The snow was soft everywhere. Never had any rest because you were always working trying to maintain balance,” said Smith. “I wasn’t sure who was chasing me down on the last lap. I noticed in the final third it was (Johannes Thingnes). I could tell he was looking tired losing his balance a bit. I stuck behind him a bit and managed to take him at the finish.”
Smith finished 45 seconds the race winner, Austria’s Simon Eder, who posted a time of 33:19.1 (1+0+0+0). Martin Fourcade, of France, won the silver at 33:23.3 despite missing one shot in his final two standing round of shots. Michal Slesingr, of Czech Republic, shot clean to win the bronze with a time of 33:24.2.
It appears the decision to staying in Europe for the holiday break is paying off for Smith, who became the first Canadian male ever to a medal at the Biathlon World Championships last year. Poised to get back onto the World Cup podium, the Calgarian was in medal contention yesterday until he missed two shots in his final stop at the range.
“I wanted to avoid all the travel and jet lag so I spent Christmas in France this year,” said Smith whose been rock solid despite having to shake off a little cold last week. “I’ve been feeling good in my intensity training so it appears my decision to stay in Europe was a good choice. I’m aiming for a couple of medals this year and moving into the top-10 in the overall (standings).”
Three other young Canadians qualified to start the pursuit race with the top-60 athletes. Macx Davies, of Canmore, Alta., finished 50th at 37:32.5 (2+0+0+2), while the Gow brothers crossed the line in a photo finish for 53rd. Christian Gow edged out his older brother for 53rd at 38:13.1 (0+1+1+0), while Scott was one spot back at 38:13.1 (2+1+1+0).
World Cup rookie, Julia Ransom of Kelowna, B.C., was the lone Canadian to start the women’s 10-kilometre pursuit. Ransom posted a time of 36:55.5 (0+0+1+1) for 45th place.
Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier was first across the finish line with a time of 32:35.9 (0+0+1+0). Gabriela Soukalova, of Czech Republic, missed just one shot in her final round of shooting, to snag the silver medal at 32:43.2, while Italy’s Dorothea Wierer skied to the bronze medal step of the podium with a time of 33:29.5 (0+1+0+1).
Nathan Smith will be the lone Canadian to start the mass start races on Sunday in Ruhpolding.
Top-Five Men and Canadian Results:
1. Simon Eder, AUT, (1+0+0+0), 33:19.1; 2. Martin Fourcade, FRA, (0+0+1+1), 33:23.3; 3. Michal Slesingr, CZE, (0+0+0+0), 33:24.2; 4. Tarjei Boe, NOR, (0+2+0+1), 33:27.1; 5. Emil Hegle Svendsen, NOR, (1+0+0+1), 33:45.3
6. Nathan Smith, Calgary, (1+0+0+0), 34:04.1; 50. Macx Davies, Canmore, Alta., (2+0+0+2), 37:32.5; 53. Christian Gow, Calgary, (0+1+1+0), 38:13.1; 54. Scott Gow, Calgary, (2+1+1+0), 38:13.1
Top-Five Women and Canadian Results:
1. Laura Dahlmeier, GER, (0+0+1+0), 32:35.9; 2. Gabriela Soukalova, CZE, (0+0+0+1), 32:43.2; 3. Dorothea Wierer, ITA, (0+1+0+1), 33:29.5; 4. Tiril Eckhoff, NOR, (1+0+2+0), 33:33.2; 5. Marie Dorin Habert, FRA, (1+0+0+1), 33:33.4.
45. Julia Ransom, Kelowna, B.C., (0+0+1+1), 36:55.5