While Canada's top Nordic athletes may be busy battling for medals at the PyeongChang Winter Games, a few local athletes proved they're not far behind at the second Biathlon BC Cup of the season.
Hosted by the Whistler Biathlon Society at Whistler Olympic Park Feb. 9 to 11, the "competitions went really well, the weather was great and it was a good turnout of over 80 athletes at each competition," explained Clayton Whitman of the Whistler Biathlon Society.
One of those 80 athletes was Kaede Kawano of the Whistler Nordic Development Centre (WNDC). Competing in the youth women's category, the 18-year-old managed to secure a pair of wins; first in the six-kilometre sprint on Saturday, with a time of 20 minutes, two seconds (20:02) before repeating the podium-topping result in Sunday's 10-km competition, in 38.44.4. Following Kawano on Sunday's podium was WNDC teammate Larissa Black.
"I was pretty pleased with my performance over the weekend," said Kawano, who's now in her third year of competing in biathlon after switching over from cross-country skiing. "The six-kilometre sprint race on Saturday was one of my best races this season, with strong skiing and hitting nine out of 10 targets."
Although the second race of an event weekend is typically more difficult for Kawano, since she's usually more fatigued, Sunday's youth women's 10-km event "went pretty well," she explained. "Especially the first three shooting bouts, where I only missed one target each time."
The strong results are also valuable for Kawano as she looks ahead to the rest of the season: points collected at BC Cup races make up part of the percentage calculation that determines which athletes qualify for nationals, Kawano explained.
"We are racing for a percentage, based on a pre-set average time based on the course and location. The five best races are used for this calculation, so the more BC Cups we race, the better the percentage gets usually."
With one more BC Cup left in her competition schedule, Kawano's eyes are already set on her next big event next month: Canadian Championships in Charlo, N.B. "My goal is to put together my best performance this season there," she said.
The likelihood of that happening is looking bright after Kawano's first season spent training as part the WNDC. "This year I have improved immensely as an athlete, and as a person," she said. "Without school or work in the way, it gave me a chance to really put my all into training and the athlete lifestyle. This experience has taught me so much and will stick with me for a lifetime."
Whistler biathlete Simon Long, competing with the Sea to Sky Nordics program, is also busy preparing for a big upcoming competition. Long will compete at the BC Winter Games in Kamloops next month, after officially qualifying for the event in January.
But first, he managed to lock down an impressive performance at Whistler Olympic Park last weekend, finishing fifth in the junior boys' six-km individual and fourth in the 4.5-km sprint.
Sea to Sky Nordics teammates Jaedon Chase also took third place in the senior boys' individual and fourth place in the sprint at WOP last weekend, while Sean Benson took first in the junior boys' sprint event and third in the individual. Marin Lowe finished fifth in both junior girls' events.
Kawano and Black weren't WNDC's only athletes to represent, either: Andrei Secu struck gold in both the youth men's 12.5-km individual and 7.5-km sprint events, both times followed by teammate Keiran Marchand in second.
While last weekend's BC Cup may have been the last provincial biathlon competition at Whistler Olympic Park this winter, the Whistler Biathlon Society is gearing up to host one more club-level race before spring arrives. Dubbed the St. Patrick's Day Sprint, the event is set to take place March 17 and is open to the public.
Full results are available at http://whistlerbiathlon.com/events/results.