BRESNO-OSRBLIE, SVK.—Megan Bankes became the first Canadian woman ever to win a gold medal at the Biathlon Junior World Championships.
The Calgary teenager put together a perfect day of shooting and skiing to win the junior women’s 12.5-kilometre individual biathlon race with a time of 37:22.0 on Thursday in Bresno-Osrblie, Slovakia.
“It is pretty exciting. This is the first time I’ve shot 20 for 20. It never crossed my mind but to be the first Canadian to win is very cool,” said Bankes. “There are so many great athletes before me and with me, and such a great support team that makes this possible. The wax techs did such a great job so it is a pretty great feeling.”
It is the second-straight day a Canadian has climbed to the top of the podium at the Youth and Junior World Championships in biathlon. Leo Grandbois, of Sherbrooke, Que., won the youth men’s individual race on Wednesday. Never before has Canada won back-to-back gold’s at the premiere international youth and junior event.
“I watched Leo yesterday and gained a lot of inspiration from him,” added Bankes. “I saw how calm he was on the range and just felt if he can do it then I can too. I just wanted to go out there – shoot clean and ski fast.”
The 19-year-old Bankes was one of four athletes in the 67-woman field to shoot clean in her four bouts on the range.
“I shot with a lot of confidence today. It came really easy,” said Bankes. “I had an early start bib so had to wait around a bit, and was nervous waiting for the other girls to finish. I kept peaking at the results, but I was the only one who shot clean and skied fast so I knew I had a pretty good chance at winning.”
The young Canuck finished 48 seconds ahead of Austria’s Julia Schwaiger who skied to the silver medal at 38:09.9 (0+0+0+1). Germany’s Anna Weidel stopped the clock at 38:42.0 (0+1+0+0) for the bronze medal.
Bankes was riding a load of confidence coming into her fourth Youth/Junior World Championships, and first as a junior, after winning the silver medal at the Junior IBU Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic just two weeks ago.
“After I got the silver, I knew if I shot and skied well, I could get a medal here,” said Bankes. “It takes a long time to get to this point. I think having been here four times now I have the experience to do this. I have everything around me here that I need to be successful. I’m just going to try and recover now, and continue to try and shoot clean and ski fast in the sprint.”
Other Canadian performances included: Emily Dickson, of Prince George, B.C., in 28th at 41:43.3 (0+1+0+0); Nadia Moser, of Whitehorse, in 41st at 43:20.8 (2+0+0+2); and Charlotte Hamel, of Sherbrooke, Que., did not finish.
Only two Canadians have ever climbed onto the top step of the Junior World Championship podium. Calgary’s Kurtis Wenzel won the individual title at the 2012 Junior Worlds in Kontiolahti, Finland. Wenzel also had a gold in youth racing at the 2009 World Championships in Canmore, Alta.,
Jean-Philippe, Que. of Sherbrooke, Que., was the first Canadian to be crowned World Champ when he won the youth men’s sprint race at the 2004 World Championships in Haute Maurienne Vanoise, France.
Zachari Bolduc, of Ste. Sophie, Que., was the top Canadian in the junior men’s 15-kilometre individual race. Bolduc clocked a time of 44:01.9 for 34th place (1+0+0+1). Trevor Kiers, of Timmins, Ont., was 54th at 45:38.8 (1+1+2+1). Jules Burnotte, of Sherbrooke, Que., was 55th at 45:44.6 (2+0+1+2), and Edmonton’s Pearce Hanna finished 65th with a time of 46:55.2 (1+2+2+2).
The Youth and Junior World Championships continue on Friday with the youth sprint races.