NOVE MESTO, Cze.—Canada’s Megan Bankes had the biathlon race of her life winning the silver medal at the Junior IBU Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic on Sunday.
Starting time behind the leaders in seventh spot based on yesterday’s sprint results, the 19-year-old from Calgary had a near flawless day, finishing just two seconds off the gold medal pace with a time of 33:42.7.
“It was really exciting to cross the finish line and see I was second. It is the best international result for me ever,” said Bankes. “After yesterday I knew I was in a good spot. I really like racing the pursuit and felt if I could keep my shooting together I had a good chance to do well today.”
The young Canuck was leading the 10-kilometre trek on the challenging Nove Mesto track – which forces athletes to ski a tactical race with its wide tracks, steep hills and long, flat entry into the range – until her final round of standing shots.
“It’s a really hard course. You have to be really careful with the flat entry into the range because you can get your heart rate up quite high,” added Bankes. “I tried to ski really tactically. You don’t want to take the corners too wide or you can ski a lot more than everyone else. I was able to do that today.”
In the pursuit, athletes have two rounds of prone shooting, followed by two bouts of standing shots. Athletes are forced to ski a 150-metre penalty loop for every missed shot.
Missing one in her opening round of standing shots, the Calgary teen dropped into second after being forced to the penalty loop in her final stop at the range.
“After I cleaned both bouts in prone, I was expecting to be on the podium, but nothing is a guarantee in biathlon,” said Bankes. “I started biathlon because I liked the variables of the sport. You can be leading, and then come into the range and miss your targets and that lead is gone. You always have to be on in both your shooting and skiing.
“It is really hard to have both, but today it all came together. This is one of my best shooting races for me internationally. It was really incredible.”
Marketa Davidova, of the Czech Republic, won the race with a time of 33:40.7 despite missing six shots (0+2+2+2). Russia’s Ksenia Zhuzhgova handily won the bronze medal with a time of 33:48.4 (1+0+0+0).
Nadia Moser, of Whitehorse, was 27th at 36:53.9 (0+1+1+2). Benita Peiffer, of Whistler, B.C., placed 54th with a time of 42:21.9 (1+1+1+3).
Bankes is in Europe preparing to represent Canada for the fourth time at the World Youth and Junior Biathlon Championships in Slovakia, February 14 – March 2.
“This definitely gives me an idea of where I hope to be, and know that I can be,” added Bankes, who is competing as a junior for the first time at World Champs. “It shows me where I stack up against the top juniors in the world. I’m pretty excited to see if I can keep it up, and even get faster.”