CANMORE – The big shots at International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced the first four events of the world cup schedule will go ahead after a couple of venue changes were made to the joy of Canadian sharpshooters.
The IBU executive board OK’d the first trimester of events in November and December, which will take place at two venues in Finland and Austria and left out previously scheduled stops in France and Sweden to “protect participant health and minimize travel challenges.”
“Biathlon, like all sports, is facing challenges we have never faced before. While disappointing, we have to accept that changes to our original plans are absolutely necessary,” said IBU President Olle Dahlin in a press release.
The second and third trimester schedules will be confirmed at the end of October and November, respectfully.
The IBU also confirmed the IBU World Championships Biathlon will take place Feb. 9-21 in Pokljuka, Slovenia.
For Biathlon Canada, being back on track and having a focus is great for its coaches and biathletes.
“Hearing about the first trimester makes it a little more real,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach of the national senior team. “We were very uncertain about the events, or what it would look like. The athletes and coaches are training and we all want to get over there, but under the safest circumstances.”
The BMW IBU Biathlon World Cup starts in Kontiolahti, Finland on Nov. 27-29 and will remain there for another week for the second world cup event before the circuit switches to Hochfilzen, Austria on Dec. 7 for the third and fourth events until Dec. 20.
The Austrian venue is a special spot for the recent group of elite Canadian biathletes.
Last season, the Canadian relay teams scored their best results of the season in Hochfilzen, including a historic race from the men, consisting of Scott Gow, Christian Gow, Jules Burnotte and Aidan Millar, who shot and skied their way to fourth place – their top results ever at a world cup event.
The women’s relay team – Emma Lunder, Sarah Beaudry, Megan Bankes and Nadia Moser – secured fifth place at the event, which was the Canadian women’s best result since 2013.
“It’s a good venue for us,” said Wadsworth of the Hochfilzen Biathlon Center.
Biathletes will be training in Whistler until early October, and then during the first week of November, Biathlon Canada will hold its Frozen Thunder time trials at the Canmore Nordic Centre to lock down the national senior teams.
With all the anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Wadsworth added that all the national high level biathletes are comfortable participating and travelling to and through Europe for the 2020-21 season and there will be testing for athletes throughout.
In related news, last September, the IBU cancelled the IBU Cup’s November and December calendar, in addition to cancelling the entire 2020-21 Junior IBU Cup season.
For Biathlon Canada, that decision could affect up to eight of its IBU biathletes and up to 10 juniors, based on selection criteria, which is a high percentage of its high performance program.