CANMORE – With a new season about to begin, Canadian biathletes’ sights are set on getting more world cup starting spots for Canucks right out of the gates.
Following national trials earlier this month in Canmore, Biathlon Canada named its world cup, IBU Cup and Jr. IBU Cup squads on Tuesday (Nov. 14) for the first leg of the 2023-24 season.
There aren’t any surprises on the world cup “A-Team,” which features the veteran group of Olympians Emma Lunder, Christian Gow, Adam Runnalls, and almost-Olympian Nadia Moser.
Lunder had a standout 2022-23 season with fourth and sixth place finishes, and a podium is within grasp for the top athlete this season, which could come at the right time for the financially struggling Biathlon Canada. In the Canadian sports funding atmosphere, funding is closely tied to performance.
“It’s in the back of everybody’s minds,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach of the senior national team. “They want their best performances for themselves, personally, but they also know that our funding is tied into performances … if you want anything, whether it’s world cup prize money or funding from one of our national funders, then you have to perform.”
The group of four pre-qualified for the world cup, but will be occasionally joined by Canada’s world cup “B-Team”, which will start the season consisting of Olympian Emily Dickson, Benita Peiffer, Trevor Kiers and Zachary Connelly.
Down from eight consistent world cup starting spots, the B-Team will travel with the A-Team when opportunities arise to gain nation cup points, such as in relays, but otherwise, they will participate on the IBU Cup feeder circuit. Last season, the Canadian women and men finished 14th and 15th in nation cup points, respectively.
“We want to give our athletes at their level the best development opportunities,” said Wadsworth. “We really want to give the opportunity [to get on the world cup] because we think everybody on that IBU Cup team are all capable of being in the top five or top ten on the IBU Cup.”
The IBU Cup will also feature Canucks Gillian Gowling, Pascale Paradis, Logan Pletz, and Haldan Borglum.
“I’m super happy with how my [trial] races went,” said Borglum, 24. “I pulled together some of the best performances of my career to qualify so now the goal is to keep that trend going in Europe and get some new personal bests.”
The Junior IBU team features Alexandra Hulshof, Anna Marino, Ema Chlepkova, Moira Green, Benjamin Brousseau, Daniel Gilfillan, Gavin Johnston, Theo Fradette.
The IBU world cup begins Nov. 25 to Dec. 3 in Oestersund, Sweden.
Canmore biathlete misfires, keeps positive mindset
Unable to qualify for one of the international teams, Canmore biathlete Matthew Strum is still aiming high.
The 27-year-old Alberta World Cup Academy athlete believes he has a shot at making one of the travelling Biathlon Canada teams later this season and he knows what he has to do to get there.
“I felt like I executed really well [at trials],” said Strum, “and while my skiing speed may not have been the best and my shooting has definitely been better in previous seasons, I’m just happy to be able to still be in the running. I’m still right there.”
Strum’s best shooting day was in pursuit, when he shot 16/20 and was consistently his fastest in and out of the range during three days of racing.
Due to asthma, the early November races were Strum’s first chance to compete since January of this year. After having a reduced off-season training schedule, he thinks getting back into form and picking up the volume of shooting over the next month in preparation for a national event in Quebec in early January will put him in a good spot to get back overseas.
“I’m that close right now and I know that I have the capability to kind of be at that highest level,” he said. “It’s just fun to race, and it’s just such good opportunity, even with limited opportunities.”
A top level international race that Strum and the other Canucks have on their radar is the Canmore IBU world cup, taking place March 14-17, 2024, at the Canmore Nordic Centre.