IBU BMW World Cup, Canmore - Image credit: Pam Doyle

After an uncharacteristically long stint at home in Canmore, it finally came time to start the 2015/2016 season in earnest. To kick things off, was a trip to the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Though the focus of the trip was on good racing; it also acted as a great tone up before the final push of back-to-back to World Cups in Europe later in February. Testing new practices leading into race start, or working out kinks in the racing. As well, this first trip into Korea (well for most on the team) was bit of an exploration trip. Exploring the culture, scenery, food and many other aspects as we try and get familiar with it before the 2018 Games. I learned a lot throughout the trip. As I came home, I reflected a bit on all the experiences and I’m looking to returning next season. At the same time, the realisation of the upcoming Games begins to sink in. This week marked the two years out before the Olympic Games open. Meaning I’m only two years and a month before the Paralympics.
The venues are clustered in a very interesting area about a three-hour drive East of Seoul. Used primarily as an all-seasons resort, with skiing in the winter and golf in the summer. I can see the beauty in the area when everything is in full bloom and bright green. It is a little sparse in the Winter with brown grass and ribbons of white snow. But we did get a few centimeters of snow while we were there and instantly it looked almost magical. The majority of the Cross Country and Biathlon trails are in golf courses. There are flatter sections to the courses but there are no real flat sections besides the stadiums. The climbs are not big monsters, they tend to be short steeper climbs but there are some more sustained climbs here and there. Like the switch back climb on the Biathlon side (I really hope I can race on it for the Games). As with most flatter courses, they ski much harder then they appear. The three Nordic venues (Biathlon, Cross Country and Ski Jumping) are all right beside each. If a gust of wind times it perfectly a jumper may end up landing on the finishing straight of Cross Country.
This race series turned out to be one of my best. The series started out with a Classic Sprint. I could feel I didn’t quite have the high-end tempo or snap in the qualifier but skied well. Had a few things I wasn’t overly happy with in my first go around. Worked a few of them out in the semi and felt better prepared as I went into the final. I skied a solid final, though looking back there were perhaps a few tactical errors, as I crossed the line in second. Good experience for the later sprints we have on the World Cups. I decided to skip the second race and prepared for the last two, which were Biathlon races. In the first Biathlon, a rushed last shot in my first bout which put me in a bit of a corner. A focused, clean second bout gave me a little room to ski myself into second. There was no catching the leader that day. At this point I was having enough of these second place finishes. I started the Middle Distance Biathlon race, focused with three awesome bouts of shooting. Building upon a lead in each lap. I didn’t make it easy on myself, with a miss in the last bout it came to a ski race over the last lap. With the help of some rockets under my feet I was able to make up some ground again and take it in for the ‘W’. I left Korea feeling pretty good. Great racing but still a little room for improvement before the World Cups.
There was a bit of a special treat as I got back to Canmore. For the first time in 23 years the IBU World Cup was returning to Canmore. For the last couple of years since I learned Canmore would be hosting the World Cup I have been curious, almost anxious to see how it would all look on race day. It was beautiful! The place where I almost spent everyday at, had been transformed into a something that (for the most part) I’ve only seen on television. Walking around nearly everyone I saw I recognized; Olympic, World Champions, or World Cup winners they were all there. The very best Biathletes in the World. For the first few days of the World Cup I was in Lake Louise for a mini-volume camp so I could only watch the races online. Saturday, for both Mass Start races, I had the day off so I volunteered in Equipment Check. It was quite the experience to meet the stars of the Biathlon circuit up close and to be on the other side of the table. I have to say that the athletes loved being in Canmore. It is not the mega-stadiums of Europe but more of an intimate dream. The spectators are close but not overbearing. The trails were tough but not the toughest. The altitude is challenging but the access to breathtaking skiing other then the race trails is something that is now a rarity. There were some stranger final results but that said it was a bit of a fresh breath to see different athletes take to the front. The temper tantrum of changing weather on Friday and Saturday is a bit unusual for Canmore (but hey, we are in the mountains) but it challenged the current best to prove their mantel. And most did! From what I heard and what I hope, that it won’t be another 23 years before the next World Cup!
I’m now into the final few days here in Canmore before a lengthy trip across the pond. I begin in Finsterau, Germany for a World Cup and test event for next years’ World Championships. Through the short turnaround before the next World Cup I decided to stay in Europe instead of flying back and forth to Canada. Mid-March the teams will all meet for the last time this season in what seems to be my third, maybe fourth, home away from home- Vuokatti, Finland.

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