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Emma Lunder: Bow Valley's Beijing Bound Athletes

"Biathlon is such an unpredictable sport and I know I’ve done really good training and I know I can be one of the best shooters in the world it just needs to all come together on the same day.”

Emma Lunder, biathlon, top 5 world cup threat

Grizzly bears can’t even match up to super-athlete Emma Lunder these days.

With a second Olympic Games ready, locked and loaded, the journey of becoming Canada’s standout woman with a .22 rifle and skis didn’t happen overnight.

Challenging the top field consistently, Lunder stepped up her game: from shooting percentage jumping to its most precise ever in the mid-80s up to an established sense of belonging among the big names of the sport. One way to look at it is four years ago in South Korea, the excited Canuck was happy to be racing against the world’s top biathletes. But in Beijing, Lunder is the elite.

“I’m looking for a podium,” said Lunder. “Biathlon is such an unpredictable sport and I know I’ve done really good training and I know I can be one of the best shooters in the world it just needs to all come together on the same day.”


A post shared by Emma Lunder (@emmalunds)

A scan through Lunder’s stats since 2019 reveal that things can absolutely all come together at the perfect time for her. The 30-year-old sharpshooter pushed herself in training to land 13 top 20s and six top 10s on the world cup, and four top 20s at world championships. However, the impressive athlete’s feather-in-the-cap moment was this season when she flew to sixth place in the 15 kilometre individual, her very first flower ceremony for top-six finishers, at the IBU world cup in Sweden.

“Consistency was the biggest change for me,” said Lunder. “It felt like a pretty big step and I’m happy it happened last year so I could learn from it and be a bit more prepared for it this year going in.”

There’s been a couple big changes at Biathlon Canada in the past four years that’ve helped including the emergence of Nadia Moser, a main teammate constantly nipping at Lunder’s heels, and when shooting expert, Pavel Lanstov, and skiing specialist, Justin Wadsworth, joined the squad. It was the first time working with a shooting expert for the biathlete, who started at the sea cadet’s in Vernon, B.C. after seeing older brother, Angus, trying it.

“The coach kind of made a joke that I was like already shooting better than my brother,” said Lunder. “When I was finally old enough to join sea cadets, right away I knew I wanted to try out the biathlon program and see what it was all about.”

The hometown biathlon program was tiny … as in Lunder was the only one in it after a while. That’s where mother, Kaarina, became a volunteer parent-coach and then an officer-coach for the program.

“I think when you’re a teenage girl and your mom is a coach there was a little bit of resistance … but it was also really special that she could be out there with Angus and I and that she took the time and wanting to be there for us,” Lunder said.

Following a brief stint in Squamish, B.C., Lunder moved to Canmore to start training with the Rocky Mountain Racers where she met biathlon-crazed brothers Scott Gow and Christian Gow.

In 2015, Lunder won silver at the IBU Cup in Canmore, and three years later, she nervously skied up to the start line at PyeongChang 2018. But Lunder noticeably started taking things to another level around the time she came face-to-face with an angry mama grizzly defending its tiny cubs.

Living in Canmore, a mountain town known for Olympians and bears, a wildly dangerous moment occurred when Lunder was out for a solo run one summer morning in 2019. The Olympian was on the Low Line mountain trail, where she usually ran with teammates Scott, and her partner, Christian. Armed with bear spray, she came around a bend where the grizzly family was about 50 metres away. Time moved in slow motion during the heart-sinking moment.

“Basically as soon as she saw me, she charged and then closed at least half the distance between us,” said Lunder. 

“As soon as I got [my bear spray] out she’s like charging me again and I just kind of waited and I was like, ‘oh my god. I can’t believe this is happening.’”

About to be run over by the charging grizzly, Lunder used her pinpoint shooting accuracy with the bear spray, dosing it with the stinging mace.

“It worked perfectly,” Lunder said. “She spun around instantly and bolted in the other direction with her cubs and I ran basically as hard as I could for 20 minutes back to Peaks of Grassi.”

The scary moment with the bruin will forever be burned in Lunder’s mind. After Beijing is all said and done, Lunder hopes a career-defining performance can give that lifetime memory some

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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