—Ransom blows into 19th, three-time Canadian Olympic veteran Zina Kocher lives dream of racing at home in final year with national squad—
CANMORE, Alta.—In true Okanagan fashion, Julia Ransom popped a bottle of fine wine and chowed down on some cake with friends and family to celebrate her 23rd birthday on the eve of her first-ever World Cup race on home snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre where she earned the ultimate gift –a career best World Cup sprint finish in 19th place.
“It was a perfect pre-race meal last night for my birthday. A little wine and some little minion cupcakes from my Dad. It got the momentum going for sure,” laughed Ransom. “I was able to match my previous best two weeks ago so I’m stoked with today.”
The energetic Ransom, of Kelowna, B.C., had bolted to a 19th place finish in the World Cup pursuit race in Antholz, Italy prior to returning to Canada.
She was one of only seven athletes in the international field to shoot clean on a blustery day as a good ole’ Alberta Chinook ripped through the Bow Valley Corridor during the women’s 7.5-kilometre women’s sprint race on Friday at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Ransom clocked a time of 21:15.9.
“Shooting went well. I didn’t have a hurricane (to shoot in) which was nice, but I did have wind in prone,” said Ransom. “I just felt really prepared coming in today.
“It was a balance between not being too anxious with everyone here to watch and being so excited I couldn’t’ even contain myself at the start. It definitely helped racing at home, and it played into my favour today.”
The top-two athletes on the podium joined Ransom in the small group of sharp-shooters. Race winner Olena Pidhrushna, of the Ukraine, was the only athlete to complete the course with a sub 20-minute time at 19:56.9. Poland’s Krystyna Guzic was second at 20:04.4. Italy’s Dorothea Wierer was forced to take one lap around the 150-metre penalty loop of shame after her standing round of shooting, but hung on for the bronze medal with a time of 20:09.3.
Another of Canada’s rising stars out of British Columbia, Sarah Beaudry, also had a career-best finish. The 21-year-old Prince George native missed just one target in standing to post a 38th-place time of 21:59.2.
It was a passing of the torch so-to-speak in the Canadian biathlon program on Friday with the young guns taking centre stage on home snow as three-time Olympic veteran, and leader of the women’s squad, finally had the opportunity to race a World Cup at the Canmore Nordic Centre for the first time in her career.
Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., was just the second Canadian ever to win a World Cup biathlon medal when she celebrated the historic feat in 2006 after claiming the bronze in Oestersund, Sweden.
After doing a lot of heavy lifting for a sport that often flies under the radar in Canada, Kocher decided to extend her career for two more years following the Sochi Olympic Games in order to capitalize on the opportunity of racing where it all began with the national squad at the Canmore Nordic Centre. It wasn’t the result she was looking for finishing in 56th place with a time of 22:25.1 (2+3), but well worth the effort.
“It was a dream I always had to race here and I finally accomplished it,” said Kocher.
“I was looking for a little inspiration last night and I started pulling out newspaper clippings and looking at photo albums of my career. I realized I will just miss all of my teammates and coaches,” said a teary-eyed Kocher in the finish area. “We worked hard at this together, and we were a family. It is nice to see the program now getting the results.”
One of Kocher’s longtime teammates and friends, Rossana Crawford from Canmore, Alta., also couldn’t miss the opportunity to race at home despite battling sickness for most of the week. Crawford finished well back in 72nd at 23:07.9 (2+2).
The BMW World Cup Biathlon continues on Saturday with the mass start races where Calgary’s Nathan Smith will have the nation on his shoulders as the lone Canadian starter. The individual and team relays are slated for Sunday.
Top-Five Women’s and Canadian Results:
1. Olena Pidhrushna, UKR, 0+0, 19:56.9; 2. Krystyna Guzik, POL, 0+0, 20:04.4; 3. Dorothea Wierer, ITA, 0+1, 20:09.3; 4. Monika Hojnisz, POL, 1+0, 20:11.0; 5. Baiba Bendika, LAT, 0+0, 20:20.6.
19. Julia Ransom, Kelowna, B.C., 0+0, 21:15.9; 38. Sarah Beaudry, Prince George, B.C., 0+1, 21:59.2; 56. Zina Kocher, Red Deer, Alta., 2+3, 22:25.1; 72. Rosanna Crawford, Canmore, Alta., 2+2, 23:07.9.