James is a member of the Wapiti Nordic Ski Club in Grande Prairie and a member of the Biathlon Alberta board. Here is his report about his time in Austria with the international biathlon community.
The Winter World Masters Games has been an amazing experience! The collection of biathletes that descended upon Seefeld from a great multitude of countries and a wide variety of backgrounds is impressive! From ex-Olympians to the 2 Mexicans who are living in Austria, started skiing a year ago and got their rifles a couple of weeks ago, the commitment of people who love this sport is continuously on display.The Seefeld course was interesting for a few reasons. It formed a U around two ski jumps which made watching that event easy and exciting. The course also circled behind the range on a trail that took skiers up a hill protected by safety glass. This provided a great place to view the range from during practice. The course also had a hill similar to the big hill at Canmore that had to be climbed right before the range which put extra stress on skiers immediately before shooting. That hill was a challenge to cope with and certainly affected shooting results.The commandery of the master’s group, young or old, male or female, was inspiring! I believe everyone enjoyed being able to participate at their age and all had respect and admiration for those older than they were.The host organization did a wonderful job of putting on the Biathlon event at these games and while there were a few hiccups, athletes rolled with the punches and demonstrated great sportsmanship.
Specific to me, I had three great races. The Individual was a learning experience about how to tackle this course and get more information on who my competition was. I was pleased with my 6th place in ski time and sixth overall once time penalties for my 7 misses were applied. The Sprint was my best race as I skied the course better and had a better shooting result because of it (8/10). The relay was the most exciting and fun. I ended up on a team with an Aussie and an Italian in the 60+ category. I was a faster skier than they were but they were better shooters. Friedl from Australia had not missed a shot in the first two races! Friedl started the race and with clean shooting (again! Now 40/40), he handed off to Stefano in first place. Stefano only needed one spare and handed off to me still in first.
I got to the range just ahead of the German who quickly shot clean to the delight of his cheering fans. I needed one spare and left the range 30 metres behind. The German stretched the lead to perhaps 100 m and we were side by side for standing. Bernd needed a few spares but hit all his targets and quickly left the range. Fatigue got the better of me in trying to stay in touch with the German and I struggled with my standing. Even with spares I left two targets untouched and had to do 2 quick 100 m penalty loops. I noticed the Czechs still on the firing line as I left and thought there was still a chance for silver. A hard ski to the finish was unchallenged but it was the Russians who finished behind me instead of the Czechs. There were a lot of skiers who had to do penalty loops in the course of that race.All that said, it was the Canadian women that were most impressive. Every day, they were winning medals and many of the ladies are bring home 3 medals! My hat (toque) is off to them. Respect!On none race days, we held group skis to keep the legs loose, work on technique and see the sights. About half the Canadians had chosen to pay for coaching services while the rest chose to look after themselves so Team Canada was not always together as a unified team. This didn’t pose a major problem and perhaps made a few things easier as the organizing of daily events for smaller groups was simpler.All in all, it has been amazing! Our coach, Munny, has been very helpful, and the people at home who sponsored me are most appreciated. This will likely go down as the highlight of my Biathlon journey and it will be next to impossible to beat.In the end, Masters Biathlon in Canada is if a force to be reckoned with. While I was the only man to win a medal, all the other Masters put in respectable showings in tougher fields. Canadians are known now to be in the game and show great promise for the future.