March 19th, 2014
Anyone that was in Charlo, New Brunswick knows what I am talking about. The weather wreaked havoc on the course, the roads and most noticeably the shooting range.
After returning home from Sochi I booked my plane ticket for Canadian Championships, the last time I was at Canadian Champs it was also in Charlo. Unfortunately because the World Cup schedule often conflicts with Canadian Championships we cannot make it. Charlo has a fun history for me, it was the venue of the 2003 CWG’s where I claimed my first podium finish at the national level. Also the last time I was at Canadian Champs in Charlo was 2011 where Brendan and I travelled through snow storms and layovers from Oslo to arrive just in time for the start of the race. I surprisingly I claimed the top spot that day but faded soon after.
This time around I felt the top spot was likely out of reach, I had a cold after arriving back from Sochi and assuming JP was still in Olympic form I felt he would be untouchable. But Charlo has a funny way of flipping things around. Just like last time in Charlo I arrived just in time for the first race. But this time I was prepared, I took a look at the Weather Network and made a guess at what my best pair of skis would be for the day. I then waxed, scraped and brushed them out in Canmore then wrapped them in a blanket ready to roll out race morning. Much to the amusement of others I even had to watch a video on how to apply and remove fluoro powder. I don’t know if it worked but the wind worked in my favour and I claimed my first Canadian title since 2011.
The next day was a Pursuit and seeing that I was starting first I was prepared to have a little fun, but the weather gods had a different idea and the races were cancelled due to too much snow! The parking lot of our hotel had to be cleared three times and all I wanted to do was rent a snowmobile. Instead I only ended up going for a easy ski which was not so easy due to constantly breaking through the trail even when tucked on a downhill. It was pretty fascinating to see so much powder though.
Finally the morning of the rest day which was now the Pursuit day the snow slowed to something manageable for the trail groomers. It was another chaotic day in the range with there being just as many misses as there were hits I was glad when the race was over and that I found myself in 2nd.
Next on the agenda was a Pizza & Pasta night with Q & A with 2014 Olympians – Jean-Philippe LeGuellec and Scott Perras. Public speaking is unnerving for me and I would be more comfortable standing on a shooting mat in podium position in the Olympic Relay down to my last spare round than I was on stage in front of my peers and young impressionable athletes. I embarrassingly messed up before I even got on stage by getting some of the spaghetti my white shirt Luckily Jp was a seasoned pro and after a few blunders by me we got on a roll. Overall I think the night was a success and something I would like to see every Canadian Championships with members of the National Team doing the Q & A.
The following night was the official banquet and although banquets are typically very similar one another this one had a different vibe as it was Jp’s last banquet as a athlete and as such his farewell.
Since the Olympics I have received an enormous amount of support and it has really opened my eyes how many people are watching and inspired by what I do. I can’t even imagine the amount of people Jp has inspired to strive for their goals, believe in their dreams and wake up in the pre dawn hours to watch some the Biathlon World Cup coverage on their computers Jean-Philippe LeGuellec will undoubtedly be missed but it was truly special to watch a athlete move on when they are at the top of their game but ready to move on and not forced by injury, illness or whatever afflictions have put athletes out before their time.
I had to race back to the hotel after the banquet to prepare for the Mass Start the following day, I wish I could tell you that it was the first sunny calm day of the week but it wasn’t it was equally miserable if not more so than any of the prior race days. I wish I could tell you I prevailed and drilled my targets but the truth is it became a ski race and the less time you spent in the range probably the better off you were. Jp like a true champ led his final race from start to finish. I ended up in a fun battle with Marc-Andre on the final lap, however in the final downhill and sprint to the finish he bested me leaving me with a medal of each colour for the week.
To sum it up the week in Charlo was fun. My performances weren’t amazing but I get the impression that results weren’t the most important part of my week in Charlo. I feel the most important part for us was to bring as much of our experiences in Sochi back to the Canadian biathlon community. It was inspiring to compete at the Olympics but just as inspiring to receive so much amazing feedback during my time in Charlo, it looks like the future of Biathlon in Canada is promising.