Carrying the hopes of her team on her back, Rosanna Crawford blew past Ukraine and the United States in the final metres of her race to help Canada finish 10th in the 4×6 kilometre women’s biathlon relay at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Thursday (Feb. 22).
In yet another race dominated by high winds and heightened drama, the Canadian team of Sarah Beaudry, Julia Ransom, Emma Lunder and Crawford fought hard, and fell just short of their top-eight goal. Belarus surprised everyone with its gold medal performance, while Sweden and France were second and third. On a day where nearly 200 spare bullets were used, clean shooting was at a premium.
“The wind and the snow made for a tough race. I’m really proud of this team. We all fought as hard as we could. I’m happy I could chase down a few spots for a top 10. The other three women were out on course cheering me on to catch the Ukrainian on my last lap and that provides some extra fuel,” Crawford said.
Beaudry drew the opening leg for the Canadians. The Olympic rookie held on through prone shooting, and used three spares in standing to tag off in 15th, 1:15 behind the leaders.
Ransom, who has struggled with energy during the Games, appeared to regain her form as she had the sixth fastest leg two of the race, moving the Canadians into the top-10, and within striking distance of the lead pack. She also used three spares and whittled the gap to 1:09.
“The conditions made this race even more exciting than usual and I think we handled it well. I personally was finally feeling like myself out there on skis. I have a feeling the next world cup in Finland will bring good things,” Ransom said.
The winds came in for Lunder’s prone shooting, and she was forced into the penalty loop due to her misses, dropping the Canadians to 1:22 behind the leaders. She made up for it with excellent standing shooting, though.
“I was disappointed with my prone shooting in the relay. I didn’t correct enough for the changing winds and that resulted in me having our one and only penalty loop. Coming in for standing, I tried to only focus on the task at hand, and cleaned all five targets in the fastest time of the day, so that was definitely the highlight for me. Overall, it was a pretty crazy race,” Lunder said.
Crawford had the seventh fastest time on her leg, hunting down her faltering competitors.
Biathlon Canada head coach Matthias Ahrens said the Canadians wanted to finish in the top eight, but did the best they could in challenging conditions.
“Again, very challenging windy conditions made for some big changes during the race. There were lots of penalty loops and spare rounds shot. The top-10 was OK,” Ahrens said. “Our women fought hard to hit those targets and stay in touch on the track.”
Biathlon Canada high performance director Roddy Ward said the Canadians were in the mix for the entire race, adding a 10th place matches their previous relay best at the Olympics.
“It was insane,” Ward said. “Many times, we were a clean bout from being right back at the top. We just couldn’t quite capitalize. There were very tough shooting conditions, but our women managed them well.”
The race was the last performance for Canada’s biathlon women’s team. Ward said on a whole, Canada’s women were strong, but in retrospect, the approach to the Games required some tweaking. Megan Tandy fell ill and was only able to race once. The coaches chose to start Beaudry, who had a top 30 result in the individual.
“Rosanna was strong, but had too many misses in the sprint race. That affects the pursuit and mass start. Sarah was great and in good form. Emma and Julia, I should have planned a bit more rest in the first week (in PyeongChang.)”
“PyeongChang was a great experience. I didn’t quite have the races I was hoping for, but I left it all out on the tracks,” Crawford said.