After years of cross-country domination, Benita Peiffer decided to expand her realm into biathlon this past season.
Her skiing prowess was known, but the Grade 11 student also turned heads with her shooting ability, including some of Biathlon Canada's top coaches, to the point where Peiffer was named to the organization's national development team for 2017-18.
"It was quite a surprise because I'm quite new to the biathlon world," she said. "I had no idea I was considered to make the team. I was completely shocked that I even made the team."
While many athletes are forced to make a choice between cross-country or biathlon, Peiffer will strive to do both for as long as she's allowed.
"There are a few other girls that I compete with that do both, but very rarely will you find someone doing both," she said. "Usually, you have to pick because the schedules conflict so much and it can be difficult to manage both, which I'm dealing with right now.
"I don't really want to quit one right now, so I'm just going to keep going until I have to make a decision."
Peiffer, who has different coaches for biathlon and cross-country, will still maintain the separation.
"I'm sticking with the training that I've been doing for cross-country, because that's clearly helped me but I've just been doing shooting on the side," she said.
While the announcement doesn't change Peiffer's competition schedule for next season, she plans to ramp up her training to help prove to Biathlon Canada that they made the right choice in selecting her.
"My events for the season are pretty much set in stone," she said. "As for my training goals, this has given me more motivation to go out and shoot more and train more because if I've been given a spot on this team, I should own up to that and be training a lot."
Biathlon Canada high-performance director and national team coach Roddy Ward said in an email that he's thrilled to add Peiffer to the stable of up-and-coming athletes.
"Benita was selected based on medals at National Biathlon Championships (one gold and two silver). (She) also impressed us last season with a 12th place in the Junior category at a Junior International Biathlon Cup in Slovenia. It was a very impressive result, especially for her age. Additionally, Benita has shown great ski speed so we see her as having great potential for the future," Ward wrote.
In a follow-up, Ward said he is glad to see Peiffer continue on competing in cross-country (XC) as well, noting he hopes she does so for as long as is feasible.
"Racing XC provides good competition. Biathletes first need to be good skiers and racing XC can help this. Therefore, I believe biathletes should race XC and biathlon until a time when their biathlon race schedule requires complete specialization. This happens in late junior/early senior years, in particular when an athlete starts to compete internationally for an entire season on IBU (International Biathlon Union) Cup or World Cup. That said, a few of our (national team) athletes even jumped into XC Nationals last year, since the timing worked out," he wrote.
Peiffer is set to go to Canmore early next month for altitude training before returning home. She'll head to Sweden later this summer to do a cross-country ski camp for the second consecutive summer.
Peiffer has also joined the Nordic Development Centre this year to enable some summer training locally.
"Whistler Blackcomb has opened up a cross-country ski loop on the top of the mountain for us, so every weekend, I'm going up and training up on the mountain. That's great altitude training for me," she said. "With the rain, it hasn't been great conditions, but it's still awesome training up there.
"I'll be trying to incorporate my training with the NDC's program with shooting and training."
With another year of high school to go before graduation, Peiffer will keep her home base here in Whistler for 2017-18.