Kocher cracks cross country ranks
Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 06:00 am
Cross Country Canada has a message for biathlete Zina Kocher: put down the gun and come with us.
Fresh off a tough Biathlon World Championships, Kocher did just that for a brief cameo appearance with the cross-country ski team, competing in a World Cup race in Davos, Switzerland.
Kocher was the fastest Canadian on the day, finishing 36th in the women’s 10 kilometre race on Sunday (Feb. 17). Most of Canada’s regular World Cup athletes skipped the distance race, which allowed Kocher to suit up.
“It was a very last minute decision, as I was at the biathlon world championships, but was struggling there with shooting and did not make the mass start. There has been discussion between biathlon and CCC for me to start a cross-country race this year or next year at some point. This just happened to be a possible opportunity for me to do just that.
“I really didn’t think it was possible, especially with the short notice, but CCC helped me make it happen and I financially put things in place to be here. I’m very fortunate and thankful that this was possible and that it was accepted. Hopefully in the future, there will be more opportunities for these crossovers,” Kocher said.
Kocher, 29, has been Canada’s top biathlete for some time. An extremely fast skier, she was relieved to put down her rifle and focus on her skiing, even though it came on short notice.
“I felt decent considering I had three races last week in Nove Mesto, and then travelled all day to get here (Davos). Definitely not 100 per cent today, little bit of snap missing, but overall I’m satisfied,” Kocher said. “It was definitely a fun experience. Sweet to not be lugging around four kilograms on my back, but even more awesome to not have any negative emotions skiing extra penalty laps.”
Several nations move their athletes between biathlon and cross-country skiing and Kocher got several tips from cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth before tackling the course.
“The difference is that pacing and physically and mentally relaxing before shooting plays a huge factor. Although we still need to ski as hard as we can in biathlon, you do not want to be near your limit before entering the standing position, otherwise it will be very difficult to hold the (shooting) position steady. The other difference is in biathlon if you aren’t skiing at your best that day, you still have a chance to have a good result if you clean your targets.”
Kocher said she envisions more cross-country races in her future, including an appearance at Cross Country Ski Nationals, but said her heart remains with biathlon.
“Well, I’m not sure I would switch 100 per cent, but I’d definitely be happy to do another race in the near future again before I retire. Biathlon has so many variables and is an incredibly challenging but fun sport. There is something incredibly satisfying about cleaning all your shots in a biathlon race,” Kocher said.
After a brief vacation, she’ll complete her biathlon World Cup series with stops in Oslo, Sochi and Khanty-Manysisk.