Canada’s Rosanna Crawford Rock Solid in 13th Place Finish at Biathlon World Cup Opener in Sweden

OESTERSUND, Swe.—Canada’s Rosanna Crawford served notice she will be in the podium hunt against the world’s best biathletes after charging to a 13th-place finish on one of the toughest biathlon tracks at the World Cup opener in Oestersund, Sweden on Thursday.

Feeding off her first World Cup podium when she teamed up with Nathan Smith to win the silver medal in a rare individual mixed-relay event on the weekend, the 27-year-old Crawford combined strong skiing with solid shooting to clock a time of 44:58.6 in the women’s 15-kilometre individual start.

“I was pretty nervous going into today’s race. Being the first real one of the season, everyone is curious if all their hard work over the summer has paid off,” said Crawford. “But the range had just a flutter in the flags and the tracks were hard fast, so I was looking forward to the race.”

One of the most challenging venues on the elite biathlon circuit that punishes many of the world’s best with its long, steep climbs and blustery shooting conditions, Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., calmed the storm by missing just one shot in each of her two standing rounds of shooting.

“I’m starting to like Oestersund more and more as my career goes one! Last year I opened with a 16th and this year 13th. I’m always happy to cross the finish line after the 15km and know there are only two more in the season,” added Crawford.

Italy’s Dorothea Wierer shot clean to win with a time of 42:17.0. Marie Dorin Habert, of France held on to the silver medal despite missing two shots in her first standing, clocking-in at 42:31.1. Olean Pidhrushna, of the Ukraine, also shot clean in a bronze-medal performance with a time of 42:54.8.

A model of progression in high-performance sport, Crawford has been knocking on the door to her first World Cup podium last year with a fourth and fifth place finish to go along with a handful of top-10s.

“I defiantly want to consistently be in the top-15, with hitting the top-10 more than last year. My main goal is a podium in a non-team event,” said Crawford, whose priority is to peak at the World Championships. “These first three World Cups are my favourite venues, so I know they will be my best chance to be on the podium.”

Three other Canadian women also hit the start line. Julia Ransom, of Kelowna, B.C., finished 52nd at 47:42.6 (1+2+0+0). Megan Tandy, of Prince George, B.C., placed 67th at 49:11.2, while Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., finished 98th (2+3+2+2) with a time of 53:47.0.

Crawford’s medal winning teammate in the mixed relay event, Calgary’s Nathan Smith, led the Canucks in the men’s 20-kilometre individual start on Wednesday. Smith missed one shot in each of his four trips to the range to finish 27th at 54:06.4.

“I felt good, but not particularly snappy and strong,” said Smith. “The first race is always a little different. It is not an easy skiing course, and there is wind everywhere. The wind makes zeroing difficult. I didn’t compensate for the wind enough in my first prone, but overall I feel that my shooting was there. I just made a small mistake each time I stopped at the range.”

Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was perfect in shooting to grab the first men’s gold medal of the season with a time of 50:14.5. Germany’s Simon Schempp claimed the silver at 50:41.6 (0+0+1+0), while Russia’s Alexey Volkov also shot clean to win the bronze medal with a time of 50:52.7.

It was a tough outing for the rest of the Canadian men. Calgary’s Christian Gow was 62nd (0+0+2+1) 56:35.1; Brendan Green, of Hay River, N.W.T.; finished 77th (1+2+1+2) 58:05.5; Macx Davies, of Canmore, Alta., was 85th (0+1+2+2) 59:25.0; while Calgary’s Scott Gow placed 86th (1+3+1+2) 59:35.5.

The World Cup continues in Oestersund on Saturday with the sprint races.

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Top-Five Women’s and Canadian Results:

  1. Dorothea Wierer, ITA (0+0+0+0), 42:17.0; 2. Marie Dorin Habert, FRA (0+2+0+0), 42:31.1; 3. Olena Pidhrushna, UKR, (0+0+0+0), 42:54.8; 4. Tiril Eckhoff, NOR (0+1+0+1), 43:00.3; 5. Gabriela Soukalova, CZE, (0+0+0+1), 43:05.7

Canadian Results:

  1. Rosanna Crawford, Canmore, Alta., (0+1+0+0) 44:58.6; 52. Julia Ransom, Kelowna, B.C., (1+2+0+0), 47:42.6; 67. Megan Tandy, Prince George, B.C., (2+2+0+1), 49:11.2; 98. Zina Kocher, Red Deer, Alta., (2+3+2+2), 53:47.0.

Top-Five Men and Canadian Results:

  1. Ole Einar Bjoerndale, NOR, (0+0+0+0), 50:14.5; 2. Simon Schempp, GER, (0+0+1+0), 50:41.6; 3. Alexey Volkov, RUS, (0+0+0+0), 50:52.7; T4. Emil Hegle Svendsen, NOR, (0+0+2+0), 51:58.5; T4. Quentin Fillon Maillet, FRA, (1+0+1+0), 51:58.5

Canadian Results:

  1. Nathan Smith, Calgary, (1+1+1+1), 54:06.4; 62. Christian Gow, (0+0+2+1), 56:35.1; 77. Brendan Green, Hay River, N.W.T., (1+2+1+2), 58:05.5; 85. Macx Davies, Canmore, Alta., (0+1+2+2), 59:25.0; 86. Scott Gow, Calgary, (1+3+1+2), 59:39.5.