After training in Slovenia and Czechia, Benita Peiffer was ready to tackle her own continent in Canmore, Alta. on the weekend.
At the 2017 North American Biathlon Championships, which also doubled as the nationals, the Whistler resident medalled thrice, winning the youth women 7.5-kilometre individual race and taking second in both the 7.5-km pursuit and the six-km sprint.
Peiffer, who also competes in cross-country skiing, said that's been her primary focus this year, but she got in enough shooting practice to do well on such a big stage.
"I haven't had a ton of practice this season with biathlon, but just before nationals — I just recently got back from Europe. I went to the range to practise quite a bit and dry firing is a huge factor in biathlon, so I was making sure I was dry firing every day. I don't always have access to the range," she said. "It's when you are shooting inside without any ammo, just against a wall with some targets on the wall. It's for muscle memory to just help you practice the movement of shooting."
Peiffer said it was her skiing that helped lift her over the weekend, as she still has room to grow with her shooting as she aims for more steadiness and consistency with her rifle.
"I wasn't super happy with my shooting. This weekend, it was kind of a pattern. I shot (well) at the start of the race and it would just go downhill at the end. I'm quite new to shooting and I can't quite cope with the pressure very well right now and that's something I need to work on," she said. "It was very hard shooting conditions this weekend. It was very windy and I guess I just happened to pull off the best skiing and shooting together.
"Skiing is my strong suit, so I know I can always count on my skiing if I have a bit of a rough day shooting."
While Peiffer had the time and space she prefers in the individual race, she had to make the most of some less-comfortable situations in events like the pursuit.
"In the pursuit, it's kind of like a mass start. There's a five-second difference. When there's so many people around you and they're so close when you're shooting, the pressure gets to me and sometimes I can't handle it very well. But I was happy with the results that I pulled off in that race," she said.
Peiffer will remain in Canmore for the Ski Nationals, slated for March 18 to 25. After battling some minor ailments last weekend, she hopes to be fully up-to-speed this weekend.
"I was a little bit sick coming into this weekend — and I still am — so I'm trying to quickly recover for Cross-Country Ski Nationals. I'm just trying to stay healthy and keep training," she said. "It was a little bit hard on breathing for me, especially the last day. But I just tried to get as much sleep (as possible). I probably wasn't 100 per cent the entire weekend, but I pulled through and I was happy with the result."
With the season almost coming to a close, Peiffer explained she plans to make a greater effort with biathlon to bring it up to the same level as her cross-country skiing.
"I'm going to keep both of them as priorities. I'm not going to put one over the other. Last summer, I wasn't quite as focused on biathlon and I just recently got my own rifle," she said. "But this summer, I'm definitely going to be just as focused on cross-country as I am on biathlon."
Meanwhile, Bobby Kreitz, who trains at the Whistler Olympic Park's Nordic Development Centre, took second in the youth men 10-km individual race, fourth in the 10-km pursuit and ninth in the 7.5-km sprint. Kreitz, who is originally from Prince George but moved to Whistler to train, recently represented Canada at the Biathlon Junior World Championships.