PYEONGCHANG, Kor.—Canada’s men’s and women’s biathlon squads will leave the Olympic venue in PyeongChang with good vibes after finishing seventh and eighth respectively in the team relay events.
Led by the sharp-shooting Gow brothers, the Canadian men’s team of Christian and Scott Gow, welcomed fellow Calgarian Nathan Smith back into the fold along for his first race in nearly fourth months, along with Brendan Green (Hay River, N.W.T.). The Canadians, who made history last year winning the bronze medal in the World Championship 4×7.5 kilometre relay, clocked a seventh-place time of 1:15:12.6 on Sunday.
“I am happy with my race today. It was a tough first leg, but I feel like I held my own and I am happy with the result,” said Christian Gow, who handed off to his older brother in ninth place. “I think all of us are happy to break into the top-eight today. It is our best relay placing of the season so it is nice to end on a high note.”
The 26-year-old Scott Gow, who also only used one spare shooting, took advantage of rockets for skis to move the Canadians into sixth spot. Battling illness for most of the season, the leader of the men’s team Nathan Smith was back on the start line at the World Cup. Smith handed off to Green in 10th place. Green, 28, bolted the team back into seventh spot on a brutally challenging course.
“The main take away from this weekend is that for success next year, we’ll have to be ready for some really hard climbs in all types of snow conditions,” added Christian Gow. “I am happy with how I performed here this weekend, and am excited to start preparing for next year.”
France won the men’s relay with a time of 1:12:09.5. Austria was second at 1:12:43.3, while Norway won the bronze medal with a time of 1:12:54.9.
The relay consists of each athlete skiing 7.5 kilometres 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.
The Canadian women will also leave PyeongChang after having put down a good effort in their 4×6 kilometre relay where they finished eighth with a time of 1:09:09.6.
Led by Rosanna Crawford’s (Canmore, Alta.) brilliant opening leg where she posted the second-fastest time, the Canadians were in third place after the midway point of the race when Julia Ransom (Kelowna, B.C.) shot clean and handed off to Megan Tandy (Prince George, B.C.) in third. Tandy, a two-time Olympian, dropped one more spot before Emma Lunder (Canmore, Alta.) brought the Canucks home into eighth.
“While this season was long and frustrating, I am happy to have ended on a high note here in PyeongChang,” said Crawford, who also had a season-best 19th place finish in Saturday’s pursuit. “At the end of the training season I was confident that I was in the best shape of my life and ready to go and fight with the best, but week after week I just had disappointing results.
“I was ready to go home after the World Championships, but after some good long discussions with my coach, I understood the importance of coming to see the Olympic venue and fielding a relay team. These were the best races of the year, and I finally felt like I was racing and not just surviving. It was a great day for Canada.”
Germany won the women’s relay with a time of 1:07:35.6, topping the Norwegians in second place at 1:07:58.4. The Czech Republic finished 23 seconds off the leading pace in third at 1:07:58.5.
While Crawford will now head home to refocus on next season, the rest of the Canadian contingent will head to Kontiolahti, Finland and then Oslo, Norway for the final two World Cups of the season.