The official start to the 2019/2020 competitive season occurred on Tuesday. In Biathlon, a long-standing tradition was to begin the season with an Individual. Now in recent years that has evolved, on World Cup, the Mixed Relays take the honour of opening the season. Followed by the Individual, then the Sprint, Pursuit combo over the weekend. Domestically, Canada has usually started the season with the shorter races, Sprints mostly. This year, a nod to the past with the first race at the Biathlon Canada’s National Team Trials being the Short Individual. Not the true Individual of the past, but a faster, more thrilling version and a return to the oldest format in Biathlon. I began my season on Tuesday, competing against the big boys.
Over the summer, I have worked on the latest version of my Biathlon arm. Tuesday was the competitive debut of the Biathlon Arm mk5.2. I’m pleased to report that it was a complete success. Though I still am chasing the elusive first clean race with the new arm, I’m confident it will happen. I want to Thank Leki, Prosthetic Concepts and coach John for all they did to help me develop and build this arm. This arm allows me to train and compete with a .22 calibre rifle in domestic competitions (for now). I carry the rifle, and the arm allows me to shoot in both the prone and standing positions. It is the best opportunity for me to compete against the best of the National Team, and on the fairest level we can create.
On Tuesday, the Short Individual was a windy, testing day. Not that cold, but a dusting of fresh snow made the ski conditions the slowest yet this season. Being the first race of the year, I expected to feel not that great. Rusty, not that racing is much different then intensity, but there is something to racing. I was pleasantly surprised to feel strong and even snappy during the race. My focus was good during zero which set-up a strong result in the range despite very difficult shooting conditions. Ok, I missed five, one prone and four standing. It doesn’t sound great but considering that was the third-best shooting in the Men’s field, I was satisfied. Great shooting and I knew very little separated me from excellent shooting, maybe even clean shooting. I ended up 13th in the field.
I went into Day two, knowing I was close. But my advantage I might have in the longer Individual race doesn’t hold in the Sprint. My body didn’t feel like it was going as well as Tuesday, but I was moving better, more efficient and felt like I was skiing well. As I set up for my first bout, in prone, I had a brain lapse. I knew something had changed from zero, but I couldn’t figure it out or how to deal with it. Rusty race brian. I took my first shot and missed left. My feeling told me I was left so for the second shot I moved the shot a bit to the right. Hit. I repeated this for the next three shots. I left the range knowing I had left that first shot out there. It was foolish, and I could have done better. Standing, I’m not quick at it by no means. I had to settle in because I desperately wanted that clean standing bout. I got the first two, then pulled the shot wide at the last second on the third shot. Splitting the target but not having enough to knock the target down. I recomposed, hitting the final two. Two misses total. I little disappointed, again so close to perfect but mistakes. Strangely, with colder but better wind conditions my shooting score was again third-best in the Men’s field. My much slower range times were dropping me to 18th on the results.
That was a great start to the season for me. To avoid over-racing in the early part of the season, I skipped the third race on Friday, instead watched and volunteered. I’m pleased with my performances, but at the same time, hungry. Especially in my shooting, I know I’m very close. I am working on the final little bit to help me clean. Then there is the efficiency I can work on to shorten my range time, on and off the mat. I’m slow, and it is an obvious place to make up a little time if I want to challenge the top guys truly. There were some great, strong points within the skiing, in both races. Of course, further speed will come, but I’m not too concerned about that just yet. A few technical aspects that I need to put some focus on to improve my skating efficiency. It will only be a few days before I’m racing again, this time the Cross-Country races of Nordiq Thunder. A Classic Sprint folks, one of my favourites. Followed by a distance Skate race, a great opportunity to work on some of that technical pieces from the Biathlon races.