Canadian biathlon team goes with youth

By PAM DOYLE, QMI Agency

CANMORE, Alta. — They’re a young team, but they hope to be right on target at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Canada’s youngest ever men’s and women’s Olympic biathlon teams were announced Thursday at the Canmore Nordic Centre biathlon range.

Canada is sending four women to compete in Vancouver: Zina Kocher, Rosanna Crawford, Megan Imrie and Megan Tandy. Each will compete in the individual biathlon, as well as on the relay team.

Because of its performances over the past two World Cup seasons, Canada was only allowed to send one male, Jean-Phillipe Le Guellec, to compete in the individual men’s competitions. The International Biathlon Union, (IBU), requires teams to be in the top 20 to have four biathletes compete in the individual races. Canada is also sending a men’s relay team, consisting of two-time Olympian Robin Clegg from Canmore, Marc-André Bedard, who trains in Quebec, Brendan Green and Le Guellec, who both train in Canmore.

On the women’s team, Kocher is the only one with Games experience. As well, she won a World Cup bronze medal three years ago.

“The season is going really well so far,” Kocher said. “This will be my second Olympics and I definitely want to see myself in the top 15.”

Kocher is known for her strong skiing in the last lap of races.

“Of course, we need to have both good skiing and shooting together for biathlon,” said Kocher, who has lived in Canmore for nine years.

Crawford is the second female from her Canmore-based family to go to the Olympics. Her sister, Chandra Crawford, won a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the 2006 Winter Games. Both Crawfords will be competing at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

“I’m really excited,” Rosanna Crawford, 21, said. “It’s crazy I made the team. It’s something I have dreamed about for a long time, and now, everything is coming so close and it’s becoming more real.”

Rosanna looks up to Chandra as a role model.

“I can learn from Chandra,” Rosanna Crawford said. “She can help me with what to expect going into the Games. It’s great to experience this together in our home country. Chandra is there to help me if I have any questions. When I need a coach, she’s a coach. When I need a sister, she’s a sister.”

Imrie, originally from Falcon Lake, Man., has lived in Canmore for five years and is looking forward to competing at the Olympics.

“I’ve idolized the Olympic Games since I was young,” Imrie, 23, said. “It’s an amazing experience, and I’m really honoured that I can be a small part of such a momentous occasion.”

Head coach Geret Coyne thinks his teams are ready for the 2010 Olympics.

“I think they’re all in a very good place right now,” Coyne said. “Jean-Phillipe had a pretty good start to the season with a number of top 10 finishes before Christmas.”

Kocher’s shooting progress has been good, he said.

“Megan’s physical disposition is much better now. She was training really hard before Christmas,” Coyne said. “And Rosanna handled her first World Cup events extremely well. She’s in a good mindset right now.”

The men’s and women’s biathlon teams will travel to Mount Washington, on Vancouver Island, to attend a pre-Olympic training camp Feb. 1-8.

POLL