Canmore’s winter carnival provided no shortage of excitement, particularly at the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon.
The city’s annual carnival, which boasts “six weeks of winter fun,” included the biathlon, which was held Feb. 4-7 at the Canmore Nordic Centre and featured elite biathletes from around the globe.
Biathlon races combine two events – cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Almost three decades have passed since the Canadian team competed on home snow in a contest of this calibre, the last time being Calgary’s 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Approximately 22,000 spectators ascended the mountain over four days to watch biathletes from 25 different countries battle to be the best in the world. About 85 men and 80 women competed.
The only world-class team missing from the event was the Norwegian A-team, which was preparing for a major event later in the month.
Canada finished out of the medals with Canadian Nathan Smith finishing 15th in the men’s 10-kilometre sprint.
“He should be pretty happy with that,” said his brother Tyson Smith.
“I talked to him yesterday and he said he wasn’t feeling in top form. He’s ranked 18th in the world, so he’s moving up a bit in the ranks.”
Snow conditions were a challenge during the event.
One minute the sun was shining, the next, gusts of wind whipped the snow into icy tornadoes.
Turbulent weather can hurt a biathlete’s performance.
“It’s unpredictable, especially with the wind. You can be ahead by 30 seconds and then you miss three shots and drop down to 15th. There’s a lot of luck involved with the wind,” Smith said.
The number of variables a biathlete must cope with doesn’t end there. The snow can be slow, quick or transformed into ice.
“Our snow isn’t what the Europeans are used to,” Smith said.
Paralympian Mark Arendz, (silver and bronze medalist in the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games) said the sport is a matter of grace under pressure.
“We train hard to manage the combination of skiing and shooting. Your heart is pounding. You’re out of breath. To be able to hit the mark in that state requires a lot of discipline,” he said.
Organizers of the BMW IBU World Cup Biathalon were excited about holding the event in Canada.
He’s ranked 18th in the world, so he’s moving up a bit in the ranks. – Tyson Smith
“It’s a big thing for biathlon in Canada,” Marketing Director Carly Lewis said.
“We’re really hoping this event will help grow the popularity of the sport. In Europe, biathlon is bigger than hockey is in Canada. Thirty to 40 million TV viewers will tune in overseas,” he said.
“The first race on Thursday, which was men’s sprint, we had 4.5 million viewers in Germany alone.”