Biathlon Canada Selects Coaches for the 2021 Women in Coaching Mentorship Program

By: Simone Cseplo

This article is part of the “Women in Biathlon Series”. With excellence and leadership at the forefront of Biathlon Canada’s values, we will be featuring some of the great female athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers that support us in sport and help build our close-knit community. Follow us on social media @biathloncanadaofficial to keep up with each story as we hear from women across the country. 


There are constantly new ways that a sport can be approached and coached, whether it’s with new techniques, tactics or sharing experiences. Learning from your peers as a coach is just as important as what athletes learn from coaches.

Understanding the importance of shared knowledge, but also advancing women in the sport to be leaders, is why Biathlon Canada has launched their Women in Coaching Mentorship Program.

The grassroots program will take 11 mentee coaches and pair them each with an experienced coach, with at least five years of coaching experience, who will be their mentor over the course of the next several months. 

The program gives both coaches an opportunity to learn from each other and strengthen relationships of women in the biathlon community. The annual program will take in new mentees and mentors to encourage the development of female coaches. It will give coaches and the sport a wealth of knowledge shared by coaches from coast to coast.

In Canada, women account for only 25 percent of female coaches. The goal of the Women in Coaching Mentorship Program is to foster confidence and competence, enriching the sport of biathlon. 

For experienced coaches like Gail Niinimaa, who has been coaching for over 30 years, the statistic isn’t surprising. 

“In one of my first international coaching assignments in 1988 I was the only female coach in the entire coaching cohort (from any country) at the World Championships for Women and Junior Men,” explains Niinimaa. 

Advancing women in leadership roles such as coaching is extremely beneficial, according to Canadian Women & Sport and the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), both of whom have supported and encouraged Biathlon Canada in the development of this mentorship program.

By giving female coaches the tools to grow within their role, the hope is for the mentee coach to eventually become the mentor. This will continue the channel of shared information and experiences for years to come.

“I believe this program will deepen my understanding of the sport of biathlon and will enhance my ability to work with people with diverse backgrounds and needs by accessing the perspectives of a mentor I may not have met otherwise,” says Sheri Adams-Selinger, one of the mentee coaches from Regina, Sask. 

Having female coaches in the program for years to come serves as a positive role model for young athletes or girls who want to coach biathlon. With more women in leadership positions, girls can see the possibilities for them in the future as they grow within the sport.

With this program, we hope to give those who identify as female coaches the tools and access to continue to grow our sport,” said Heather Ambrey, General Manager of Biathlon Canada. “Our goal is to create a community whereby female coaches feel empowered and continue to see success in the athletes they coach as well as themselves. We are thankful for the financial support from Sport Canda to make this opportunity possible and give women opportunities in our sport and beyond.” 

With the foundation of the sport based in the community, Biathlon Canada hopes to continue uplift the current and future generations of female coaches. 

Read some of the statements from the mentor and mentee coaches selected to the program this year.  

Katherine Madsen (Mentee Coach)

“I am thankful to Biathlon Canada for the unique opportunity to be part of the 2021 Women in Coaching Mentorship Program. Representing Canada in endurance athletics for over 2 decades and watching my children rise in the ranks of high performance in their respective sports, has been some of the most defining moments of my life. It is not lost on our family the gratitude we feel to have benefited from the many dedicated and committed coaches that helped us along our athletic journey. This mentorship program allows me to continue to learn and grow in the sport.” 

Sheri Adams-Selinger (Mentee Coach)

“I am thrilled to be a part of Biathlon Canada’s Women in Coaching Mentorship Program.  I am excited for the possibilities this program brings to help me grow as a coach and to ultimately provide the best program and experience possible to the kids and families I work with.  I believe this program will deepen my understanding of the sport. It will enhance my ability to work with people with diverse backgrounds and needs by accessing the perspectives of a mentor I may not have met otherwise.  Thank you, Biathlon Canada for this opportunity!”

Liz Gilbert (Mentee Coach)

“Coaching gives me a high, especially when an athlete succeeds not just in the sport but as a human being. Being a woman coach has helped me connect with female athletes and helping them find their ‘grit’ brings a huge smile to my face. I am so excited to be working with Canmore’s Jeffrey Lodge – his knowledge and experience will give me insights into coaching that I’ll never find in the manuals.”

Gail Niinimaa (Mentor Coach)

“I was selected to be a mentor for two coaches (Holly Lewis and Katherine Madsen) in the Women in Sport Initiative with Biathlon Canada. I think that this is a valuable program as it will allow the opportunity for coaches like me who have been in the field for many years to share their experience with younger coaches who are just starting out on their coaching path […] It is important for female coaches to have mentoring opportunities and to be able to meet other female coaches, to share the challenges that female coaches face in our sport.”

Christine Adey (Mentee Coach)

“I am very honoured to have been chosen to take part in the Biathlon Canada Women in Sport mentorship program. As a parent of athletes, I am excited to have the opportunity to be a part of their world.  I look forward to learning all that I can from my mentor coach, Jessica Blenkarn, and using her knowledge and experiences to help me become a better coach for our athletes.”

Annie Wong (Mentee Coach)

“I am very pleased to be presented with the opportunity to participate in Biathlon Canada’s initiative to encourage women in sport, in the sport of biathlon! I’m really looking forward to connecting with Heather Willis to learn her best practices, have her share her experiences (the great ones and the less so) and to hear about her learning journey throughout the years.” 


2021 Biathlon Canada Women in Coaching Mentorship Program

Mentee Coach Province Mentor Coach Province 
Naomi Johnson Lumsden, SK Allie Dickson Vancouver, BC
Sheri Adams-Selinger Regina, SK Jessica Blenkam Kamloops, BC
Katie Thistle Corner Brook, NL Sarah McCaw Garibaldi Highlands, BC
Christine Adey Corner Brook, NL Jessica Blenkarn Kamloops, BC
Katherine Madsen Kimberley, BC Gail Niinimaa Calgary, AB
Tracey Hutton Whitehorse, YT Helene Jøgensen Edmonton, AB
Anne Wong Squamish, BC Heather Willis Oakbank, MB
Helene Jørgensen Edmonton, AB Matthias Ahrens Canmore, AB
Elizabeth Gilbert Manotick, ON Jeffrey Lodge Canmore, AB
Tammy Ward Abbotsford, BC Heather Willis  Oakbank, MB
Holly Lewis Corner Brook, NL Gail Niinimaa Calgary, AB 


If you would like to read more stories like this, check out our Women’s Initiative page on our website.