BRESNO-OSRBLIE, SVK.—Leo Grandbois etched his name in the history books as third Canadian ever to win a gold medal at the Youth Biathlon World Championships on Wednesday in Bresno-Osrblie, Slovakia.
The Sherbrooke, Que. teen shot clean for the first time in his life to win the youth men’s 12.5-kilometre individual competition with a time of 32:56.6.
“It was pretty amazing. I am so happy and proud,” said Grandbois, who was competing in his first Youth World Championships. “I’m a bit surprised. Whenever I hit the start line I always go for the win, but I knew there was some strong guys out there today so I was really aiming for a top-10. I am just so proud right now.”
Despite little wind on the shooting range, the 17-year-old Canuck was the lone athlete in the 101-man field to shoot clean in his four bouts on the range.
“I had been working on my shooting a lot over the last three weeks. When I went to bed last night, and woke up today, I just had a good feeling I could do something great today,” said Grandbois, who also represented Canada at last year’s Youth Olympic Games.
“I had complete focus and concentration on the range. The hard work over the last few weeks in training really worked today.”
Grandbois came out of his first round of prone shots in seventh spot, but jumped into second place after rattling off all five targets in his first standing. He finally grabbed the lead after Russia’s Said Kariumulla Khalili missed his one in his second prone, and took full control of the race after cleaning his final standing where the Russian had one more miss.
Athletes are given a one-minute penalty for every missed shot.
“I had some great skis and a good feeling on the skis today,” added Grandbois. “I tried not to think about the possibility of winning (heading into final round of shooting). I knew that I had a good chance and I just wanted to stay patient and continue doing the same thing.”
Grandbois held off the hard-charging Russian on the final lap to win with a one minute 14.9 second lead.
Khalili settled for the silver medal at 34:11.5 (1+0+1+1). Germany’s Danilo Riethmueller grabbed the bronze medal despite missing three shots (2+1+0+0), posting a time of 34:18.1.
With the victory, Grandbois becomes just the third Canadian ever to win a gold medal at the Youth and Junior World Championships in biathlon, and first youth to do it in the individual event.
Calgary’s Kurtis Wenzel won youth gold in the sprint race at the 2009 Youth World Championships in Canmore, Alta. He added a Junior World Championship title in the individual competition three years later in Kontiolahti, Finland.
His former coach during the summer time, Jean-Philippe, Que. also of Sherbrooke, Que., was the first Canadian to be crowned World Champ. He won the youth men’s sprint race at the 2004 World Championships in Haute Maurienne Vanoise, France.
“Before I came here I looked at JP’s results on the Internet, and read in the newspaper about his win in 2004. It has always been my goal to be like him so to follow that path and do what he did is an amazing feeling,” said Grandbois. “The nicest message I received today was from JP. He told me how proud he was of me and to keep working hard. I have been smiling since I received that message.”
Other Canadian performances on the opening day of the Youth and Junior World Championships included: Calgary’s Adam Runnalls in 41st at 40:01.4 (1+2+4+1); and Calgary’s Thomas Hulsman in 57th at 41:15.6 (2+0+2+1). Bobby Kreitz, of Prince George, B.C., did not finish.
Shilo Luca Rousseau, of Thessalon, Ont., was the top Canadian in the youth women’s 10-kilometre individual event, finishing 54th at 41:30.8 (2+0+1+2). Frederique Perusse, of Levis, Que., was 77th at 45:55.5 (1+4+1+3). Calgary’s Elise Sauve finished 78th with a time of 46:08.0; while Anna Sellers, of Canmore, Alta., was 80th at 48:21.5 (3+1+4+4).
Lou Jeanmonnot Laurent won the women’s youth race with a time of 34:00.9 (0+1+0+0).
The top juniors biathletes in the world hit the start line on Thursday for a 12.5- and 15-kilometre individual race.