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Pondering retirements, extra pressure on Canadians at Canmore Biathlon World Cup

Canada’s senior national biathlon team could potentially look much different at the start of next season.

CANMORE – Canada’s senior national biathlon team could potentially look much different at the start of next season.

In the women’s pursuit race at the IBU World Cup in Canmore on Saturday (March 17), two-time Olympian Emma Lunder did not finish after being lapped by the season’s best overall biathlete Lisa Vittozzi as the Canadian completed her third bout.

The exit out of the range ended a long season for Lunder, who had just shot a shaky eight-for-15, as she quickly made her way out of the stadium and to the back area. 

She returned a bit later holding hands with partner Christian Gow, who had his final race of the season a day prior in the sprint. He didn’t make the top-60 cut off for the pursuit.

“Not the results I wanted, but the atmosphere here with the fans and everyone cheering the Canadians has just been unreal,” said Lunder. “I really felt the support from everyone on every part of the course and especially if you have a bad race but then you can have people out there screaming your name it’s just such a good feeling.”

At 32 years old and finishing a tough season, in which illness and less than desirable results factored in, Lunder said she is going to take a break to figure out her future.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s the end, but I do just want to make sure I take some time and sort through things before making any commitments,” she said.

Last season, the Canuck had her best individual season, scoring a pair of top fives on the World Cup and a seventh at the World Championships.

Justin Wadsworth, the national team’s head coach, said Lunder is one of the leaders of the biathlon national team and he said she always gives it her all.

“That’s what I could always count on,” Wadsworth said.

With speculation that the Canmore races might have been Lunder’s last dance, it could also be Gow’s as well.

A two-time Olympian and World Championship bronze medallist in relay, Gow, 30, competed at the World Cup in Canmore for the third time in his career, calling it special every time he suits up.

“In 2016, I seem to remember I was too nervous and it was too hard for me to enjoy the whole process, but 2019 and this time, I’ve really leaned into the friends and family side of things,” he said.

However, the future is uncertain for the two biathletes who have been at the top in the country for a number of years.

“I’m not even sure if they even know, but they’ve been keeping it pretty close to themselves,” said Wadsworth about potential retirements. “We haven’t been trying to probe too much, we always want to keep the focus on the event coming up, but I think now I can ask."

Added pressure

Not often does the IBU Biathlon World Cup tour make its way to Canadian soil. 

Since 2016, the world’s best biathletes have competed in Canmore three times so it’s always a rarity for Team Canada to sleep in their own beds and be cheered on during a World Cup.

For them, the home World Cup from March 14-18 was the highlight of the season.

“This is my first World Cup [in Canmore],” said Adam Runnalls, a 2022 Beijing Olympian. “I raced the IBU Cup here last year and kind of felt the energy from that but this one has a little bit more weight and nerves to it. It gives you a lot of energy and a lot of extra drive to keep going when it hurts.”

But being at home comes with extra weight, especially in a season where the majority of results weren’t in favour of the Canadians. For example, no Canadians finished inside the top 40 on their home course.

“Sometimes there can be added pressure and nerves when you’re racing in front of family because you don’t do it very often and when you do you want to give them a good show but we really just focused on the enjoyment side of things,” said Gow.

Of the eight Canucks competing, five made it into the top 60 in the sprint to qualify for Saturday’s pursuit. None were able to crack the top 30 to advance to Sunday’s men's and women's mass starts.

Zachary Connelly was the top-placing Canadian, finishing 43rd on 19-for-20 shooting in the men’s 12.5km pursuit. Starting with the No. 58 bib, Connelly climbed 15 spots to finish at a time of 39:42.8. Runnalls (14/20) was 46th.

Canadian women Nadia Moser (14/20) and Benita Peiffer (17/20) finished in 56 and 57, respectively.

“There’s a lot of pressure racing at home and when you’re having maybe not your best times it’s even more pressure,” said Wadsworth.

“I was really proud of all three of our women and just fighting out there and staying positive and doing everything right to the end,” Wadsworth added after the women’s pursuit. “Both Benita and Nadia fought right to the finish line, which I was happy to see.”

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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