2017-18 Team Canada Winter Preview: Biathlon

It’s been more than 20 years since Canada last won a biathlon medal at the Olympic Games.

But if there’s reason for optimism, it’s the results laid down since the biathlon team achieved Canadian best-ever Olympic results in seven of 11 events at Sochi 2014.

That is especially true of the men’s team, which has never had a member stand on the Olympic podium.

Who is competing?

Biathlon Canada named 11 athletes to its senior national team for 2017-18:

Men: Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Brendan Green, Nathan Smith, Macx Davies

Women: Rosanna Crawford, Emma Lunder, Julia Ransom, Megan Tandy, Megan Bankes, Sarah Beaudry

When and where are they competing?

There are six IBU World Cup stops ahead of PyeongChang 2018 with three more coming in March 2018.

November 24-December 3, 2017 – Oestersund, Sweden
December 5-10, 2017 – Hochfilzen, Austria
December 12-17, 2017 – Annecy-Le Grand Bornand, France
January 2-7, 2018 – Oberhof, Germany
January 9-14, 2018 – Ruhpolding, Germany
January 16-21, 2018 – Antholz-Anterselva, Italy

How do they qualify for PyeongChang 2018?

There will be a total of 230 biathletes at PyeongChang 2018, evenly divided between men and women.

Countries qualified for the Games based on the performances of their biathletes during the 2016-17 season. Results from World Cup, IBU Cup and World Championship events were used to create a World Cup Nations Cup Ranking List for each gender.

Countries ranked 1-5 earned six Olympic spots while countries ranked 6-20 earned five spots. Lower ranked countries could only qualify two spots.

Canada fell into the middle category, finishing 13th in the men’s ranking and 16th in the women’s ranking. That means Canada can send five men and five women to PyeongChang, but a maximum of four will be allowed to start in each individual event.

What should we watch for?

In 2015, Nathan Smith was the king of Canadian biathlon. First, he became the first Canadian man to win a medal at the world championships when he took silver in the 10km sprint. Then, he became just the second Canadian man to stand on a World Cup podium when he won gold in a 12.5km pursuit. But he’ll be making a bit of a comeback this season after missing most of 2016-17 with a virus that caused him fatigue.

Team Canada - Nathan Smith - 2015 World Championships

Team Canada’s Nathan Smith wins silver in the men’s 10km sprint at the 2015 IBU Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Markku Ulander)

By March, he was strong enough to compete at the Olympic test event of the Alpensia Biathlon Centre where he helped the men’s relay team to a seventh-place finish. That foursome also included Brendan Green and the Gow brothers, Christian and Scott. A year earlier they had made history by capturing bronze for Canada’s first ever relay medal at the world championships.

Team Canada - Biathlon - 2016 World Championships

Team Canada’s Brendan Green, Scott Gow, Nathan Smith, and Christian Gow display their 4×7.5km relay bronze medals at the 2016 IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway. (Vegard Wivestad Grott/NTB scanpix via AP)

“Their relay medal was amazing and the individual medals the year before, I think, has made everyone realize how competitive we can be at the World Cup stage,” Emma Lunder told Olympic.ca in early June. “I feel until you have those breakthrough moments it feels more like a dream. Now I have several teammates who have been on the podium so now, I can try and steal tidbits of what they did. It just seems that everyone is building off that momentum and if it’s possible once, we can get back there.”

Two-time Olympian Rosanna Crawford is the veteran of the women’s team. She joined forces with Julia Ransom, Megan Tandy and Lunder for an eighth-place finish in the relay at the Olympic test event. But the next generation is also showing strength. Last season at age 19, Megan Bankes became the first Canadian woman to win gold at the world junior championships when shot a perfect 20 for 20 in the 12.5km individual event.