—Nathan Smith and Julia Ransom place 12th in single mixed relay—
CANMORE, Alta.—Team Canada saved its best for last, gutting out a sixth-place finish in the mixed relay on a glorious Alberta afternoon to cap off the first Biathlon World Cup in more than two decades at the 1988 Olympic venue in Canmore, Alta.
Veterans Rosanna Crawford (Canmore, Alta.) and Brendan Green (Hay River, N.W.T.), flanked two of the youngest members on the rising Canadian Biathlon squad, Sarah Beaudry (Prince George, B.C.) and Macx Davies (Canmore, Atla), who sent the thousands of Canadian fans lining the picturesque trails at the world-renowned Canmore Nordic Centre to their feat after matching a career-best mixed relay finish when they were sixth with a time of 1:07:13.1.
“I can’t give enough props to my teammates,” said the 29-year-old Green. They all did a perfect job to set me up for a good last leg like that,” said Green, who added Canada also had a sixth place finish in a mixed biathlon relay in 2012.
The eight-year veteran capped off a stellar afternoon with a near flawless performance on the skinny skis and on range where he knocked down all 10 targets.
“I was definitely more nervous today than I normally am with so many family here,” added Green. “The crowd was so enthusiastic so fortunately I was able to handle it well today.”
The mixed relay consists of each athlete skiing 6 kilometres (women) 7.5 kilometres (men), with two bouts of shooting. The first starter of each team begins in a simultaneous mass start with other participants. Once completing their leg, athletes tag off to the next teammate. Competitors in the relay each carry three spare rounds. If all five targets are not knocked down with the first five rounds, the spares may be used, which takes more time because they are loaded by hand.
Green’s girlfriend and two-time Olympian, Rosanna Crawford, set the tone for the Canadian squad while duking it out in the opening leg with the world’s best on the trails she grew up on. Battling strep throat for most of the week, the 27-year-old had her best performance skiing to sixth while giving way to the young Canucks.
Competing in her first mixed relay this year, Canada’s 21-year-old rookie Sarah Beaudry, grinded the entire six-kilometre women’s leg to hold the Canadian position before handing off to Davies. The hometown boy dropped two spots, but kept the Canucks within striking distance of the top-five.
“It is definitely a different feeling when you are closer to the front in a relay,” said Davies. “You know that if you want a good result you need to set up the last guy to do it and I’m really happy I was able do that today. I think overall it was an awesome day for all of us.”
Starting his anchor leg in eighth spot, Green charged up and down the rolling terrain before bringing the crowd of nearly 7,000 to its feet with perfect shooting. Green bolted into fourth spot while heading out onto his final lap, but ran out of gas and dropped to sixth place.
“Every time you get a good result is important. Today having two veterans with two of the youngest on the team shows the depth, and a glimpse of our potential in the future,” said Green.
“It was such a great day. I think Canmore put on its best face with a blue bird day. And we are at point now with our program where we can put any two men and women together and have a good result.”
Germany smashed the field with a time of 1:05:38.8. Italy was second at 1:06:51.7, while Norway won the race for the bronze medal with a time of 1:07:02.6.
It was a day of firsts for all of the Canadians – none moreso than World Cup rookie, Julia Ransom, who teamed up with veteran Nathan Smith to wear the Canadian colours for the single mixed relay competition earlier in the morning. The Canadian duo combined to post a 12th-place time of 39:53.3 in the relatively new race format on the World Cup.
“It was my best race this week. The legs felt a lot better today. Not amazing, but quite good until that last lap,” said the 30-year-old Smith. “One of the toughest things to do is race at home with the pressure we put on ourselves with our friends and family watching all the volunteers we know out here. I obviously wanted to peak here and do well but there are so many factors that come into play. It was a great experience racing at home that we’ll be able to take with us.”
Designed to be more spectator friendly, the action-packed single mixed format is a shorter version of the mixed team event, sending athletes out on shorter 1.5-kilometre loops. The women start with doing a prone and then standing round of shots between their loops on the challenging Canmore Nordic Centre before handing off to the men for their opening leg. Athletes complete the course twice, tagging between each leg.
When all is said and done, the women also ski a total of six kilometres, while the men complete 7.5-kilometres on the course. The penalty loop is 75 metres if athletes don’t hit all targets down after using their spares.
“It was hard, very hard,” said Ransom, of Kelowna, B.C. “I haven’t done that format before. I felt that one for sure. This is the first time I’ve done a relay with Nathan so it was lot of fun for me, and a great experience.”
The Canadians bounced around between 10th and 12th for the majority of the race. Ransom struggled to settle into her shooting during the opening two rounds of shots where she required four spares to knock down all the targets.
“I was bouncing around at the start and maybe nerves got to me a little bit (during my first leg) because I didn’t know what to expect. The techs just told me to ‘reel it in,” said Ransom.
The powerful French duo of Marie Dorin Habert and Martin Fourcade pulled away from the field to win the race with a time of 37:59.0. Austria’s Lisa Hauser and Simon Eder finished 45 seconds off the golden pace with a time of 38:44.2, while Norway’s Hilde Fenne and Lars Helge Birkeland moved into third place after Birkeland’s final round of shots. Birkeland secured the Norwegians the final spot on the podium after a strong final lap, finishing with a time of 38:54.3.
Smith teamed up with Rosanna Crawford at the season-opening weekend this year on the World Cup to win the silver medal in the single mixed relay in Oestersund, Sweden. He was also part of a single-mixed relay test event in Oslo, Norway two years ago.
Heavy winds and blowing snow earlier in the week made way for blue skies and ideal conditions on Sunday to cap off a memorable week at the Canmore Nordic Centre where more than 22,000 passionate Nordic fans welcomed the return of the BMW World Cup Biathlon to Alberta.
“I think it was a fantastic week,” said Eric De Nys, high-performance Director. “I know everyone is tired and I have yet to see one grumpy person. Even the weather couldn’t bring the spirits down of the Europeans.
“For our team, maybe our veterans struggled a little bit, but our young guys really stepped up. This was the perfect way to finish it and Canmore should be very proud of all the work they did to stage such an awesome event. It is so big for the growth of our sport, and I just hope we don’t have to wait 22 more years to bring it back.”
Top-Five Mixed Team Relay and Canadian Results:
1. Germany, 1:05:38.8; 2. Italy, 1:06:51.7; 3. Norway, 1:07:02.6; 4. United States, 1:07:04.3; 5. France, 1:07:09.5
6. Canada (Rosanna Crawford, Canmore, Alta./Sarah Beaudry, Prince George, B.C./Macx Davies, Canmore, Alta./Brendan Green/Hay River, N.W.T., 1:07:13.1
Top-Five Single Mixed Relay Results:
1. France, 37:59.0; 2. Austria, 38:44.2; 3. Norway, 38:54.3; 4. Russia, 38:56.3; 5. Italy, 39:01.6.
12. Canada, (Julia Ransom, Kelowna, B.C./Nathan Smith, Calgary), 39:53.3