Larissa Black: Missing no opportunity to persevere and inspire

By: Simone Cseplo

With excellence and leadership at the forefront of Biathlon Canada’s values, we have launched the, “Women in Biathlon Series”. Over the next three months, we will feature 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. 

 

Skiing into the range felt different this year. It was quieter and less frequent. 

It was a season that made rising star and national team member, Larissa Black, take a step back to appreciate the opportunity she has, and the pride she takes representing the Maple Leaf. 

For athletes like Black, they’re adjusting to a new normal of being told events and races are being cancelled, postponed or scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when the opportunity to race comes, there’s a sense of excitement and nervousness—a feeling of knowing that she gets to perform against some of the best in the world.   

Recently returning from the Youth and Junior Championships in Austria, Black has had time to reflect on the season. 

“This past year just made me realize how much I love to race,” said Black when asked about how the past 12 months have been. “Even though it is a lot of pressure sometimes; it’s something you’ve been working towards all year. Without having those feelings all year, it was hard, but it also showed me I really love the sport […] it’s worth it at the end of the day when you get to race.” 

With every season bringing new challenges, this year was no different. Athletes weren’t allowed to have their usual pre-race rituals with teammates or come together to discuss race plans because of the restrictions in place to ensure health and safety. 

“It was hard not to socialize with the rest of the team, we were confined to our rooms with our roommate. But I think it made me realize that we are lucky to have a team that supports each other so much. We found ways to communicate with each other even if we weren’t all able to hang out at the venue.”

Even with the restrictive circumstances and protocols Black and her team have to go through, she remains humble knowing that being able to race is a privilege—it’s an opportunity she doesn’t want to take for granted. 

These experiences will help her reach the next level of racing knowing that anything that comes her way, she will be ready to tackle head on. 

“I’m excited to make that jump into a higher level and be able to push with girls who are at the World Cup level. As the level gets higher as a whole on the girls’ team, I think everyone will rise to the occasion.” 

Not only is Black looking forward to the development and progress of women and girls in the sport, but she also wants to inspire other young women and girls and serve as a role model.

Growing up in Squamish, British Columbia, Black explains that she didn’t have many other women or girls as teammates, competitors or other female athletes to look up to. As she continues to train in B.C., she wants to be a role model for a younger generation to show them what’s possible and how great the sport is.

“I think community wise in Squamish, there’s only a few people that do biathlon. Just being here and spending so much time here, I want to make sure I reach out to those younger girls who are doing biathlon. I think in Canmore it is easier to be in that community; but in Squamish you need to put yourself out there to find them because they’re not as common here.”

The responsibility of excelling in the sport while encouraging a younger generation is not lost on Black. While making performance a priority, she sees the value that sport has brought to her life and hopes to bestow those lessons, values and experiences on a newer generation of biathletes by encouraging them to try the sport and stick with it. 

“I want to make sure I’m giving back to the younger girls who are potentially going into biathlon, because I think the experiences that I’ve had in biathlon are totally worth it.”

 

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