Although Whistler biathlete Benita Peiffer is used to being at the top of the pack, she wasn't quite sure what to expect from her first appearance at the International Biathlon Union's (IBU) Junior World Championships, held last week in Otepaa, Estonia.
"I didn't come into worlds with that big expectations, just because I had no idea how I was going to place," explained the 17-year-old, over the phone from Estonia. "I had no idea where I would even stand - If I'd stand in the 50s, or in the 30s. I didn't know what I was capable of. I wasn't even that nervous, because I had no idea what I was up against."
As it turned out, the over-90-competitor field "was definitely some tough competition," she added.
But Peiffer can count herself amongst the toughest: She finished 11th in the youth women 10 kilometre individual competition on Monday, Feb. 28, before securing 10th place in the following day's team relay.
The strong results were particularly exciting for Peiffer after struggling with her shooting earlier in the season.
"I was super happy that I was able to shoot 19 for 20, and I was feeling good skiing, so I was super stoked about that," she said.
The end of the week proved to be slightly less successful for Peiffer. She finished the youth women 6 km sprint competition on March 3rd in 51st place, before coming back and performing well enough to shoot up the standings to 30th place in Sunday's pursuit competition. (Athletes' starting times in the pursuit is dependent on their results in the sprint event.)
"It was kind of like the big leagues, I guess you could say. Everyone is a lot better, and it was a little bit of a shock, but it was a really cool experience," said Peiffer of the event. "I had some good races; I had some bad races, but it was definitely a lot different dealing with the pressure of coming into big races and knowing that if you perform well, the outcomes could (mean) so much more than just a normal race in Canada. I think I dealt with it OK in some of my races, and not so well in others."
It was a busy month for Peiffer, who's been competing in Europe since the end of January. Prior to Junior World Championships, she also competed in biathlon at the European Open Championships in Pokljuka, Slovenia, as well as the OPA Continental Cup Nordic ski event in Zwiesel, Germany.
Now, Peiffer will head back home to Whistler for one day before travelling to Thunder Bay, Ont. to compete at the Canadian Ski Nationals, scheduled to take place March 8 to 18.
She's hoping for a repeat top-three performance, after earning second place in both of the past two years.
"Obviously taking home a medal would be pretty cool, but I don't know how it's going to go, just because I'm feeling a little tired already, so we'll see what I can pull together for the rest of the season."