SWEDEN – Rapidly gunning down targets and swiftly skiing across Scandinavian snow in Oestersund, the Swedish venue has quickly become one of Scott Gow’s favourite spots following back-to-back career bests on the world cup.
In the season-opening 20-kilometre men’s race on Saturday (Nov. 27), Gow finished fourth, putting together his best performance yet as an athlete and shooting clean (20/20) in the huge outing.
“It was in the known realm of possibility, so it’s obviously awesome to have that great of a start and to achieve a career PB (personal best) on day one of a new season, but at the same time, all I did was just ski the best I can and shoot the best I can, which in theory I should be able to do every time,” said Gow.
The 2018 Olympian from Canmore finished 1:26.8 behind first place's Sturla Holm Laegreid of Norway, who crossed the line at 51:04.0.
Just a year ago, a top five result like this was the complete opposite of what Gow was able to do on course, which makes this one that more satisfying for the 31-year-old.
“For me, just appreciate the result and the moment and acknowledge it was a good race and just enjoy that,” he said.
“I think the focus this year was to have … a very clear idea what we were trying to accomplish and goals we were trying to work on and then through November and the start of the world cup to try and hit the ground running and implement everything we worked on and put all the work right away.”
Knowing he was on pace for a career day, Gow skied into the final range on Saturday with an uncertain thought creeping in the back of his mind.
He was a perfect 15-for-15 and in great placing, but it was times like these previously where Gow said he was never able to capitalize on the situation.
“I always went in [the final range] and missed a few,” Gow said. “Today was the first time I went into my last shooting knowing that if I hit all five it would be an awesome result and then I was able to, so that was kind of special.”
A few weeks prior to the start of the world cup, a poised and purposeful Gow confidently said he was ready to jump out of the gates and make an early impact on the world cup.
Over the past few years, the Biathlon Canada team has worked with a sports psychologist to add a focused purpose to each season.
“One of the things we worked on with him was to be able to perform on demand and to come up with race plans you trust and have faith in and then you are able to execute them,” Gow said. “The team is worried about what they can do right now with the fitness we have and the shooting ability right now.”
Following foot surgery in the 2020 off season, Gow struggled with being comfortable racing at the beginning of the season and it showed in standings.
However, toward the middle and the end of the season, the biathlete found his groove and turned it on to end the world cup with a then career-best 10th place at, you guessed it, Oestersund.
“I do have a lot of good results here so I might have to update where I tell people is my favourite venue,” he said.
As athletes are on the road to Beijing in February, Gow added that he's "very excited to see what's possible with this team this year."
It wasn’t just Gow who picked up career results as there was a trio of top 10s and four PBs to start the season in Biathlon Canada’s “best day in 10 years.”
Christian Gow finished 10th (19/20) in the men's 20-km, and on the women’s side, Emma Lunder finished sixth (19/20) in the 15-kilometre and Nadia Moser was 27th (18/20).
"I was thrilled that the first race of the season turned into a personal best for me," said Lunder in an email. "There are always some nerves around the first race and not knowing how you'll stack up, but to finish sixth and get to take part in my first flower ceremony was awesome.
"It was even more special that Christian and Scott followed up my performance with another two top-10's, and that Nadia also got a personal best. I think it shows the gains we've made as a team this year, and I'm really motivated to see what more we can do. We had some of the top shooting speeds on the day, and I think considering we'd only just arrived in Europe and we're still dealing with a bit of jetlag, it's quite encouraging."
Up next, the biathletes are staying put in Oestersund for more world cup racing in the land of vikings on Dec. 2 and 4-5.