Nathan Smith not only etched his name into the Canadian biathlon record books, he embossed the cover. Smith won three gold medals in three races at the Canmore Nordic Centre completing this feat on Thursday (Feb. 16).
“It feels really good. Today was tougher skiing, but I still managed to do it,” Smith said.
Soft spoken off the course, Smith shredded his home course like a demon, decimating the competition in his first two races. However, the final 10 kilometre sprint was much closer. After cruising through the shooting and appearing poised for a bronze medal after the top competitors shot clean, Smith made up seven seconds in the final 700 metres of the course to secure his third gold.
“I had to fight to stay ahead of (Fritz) Pinter, my coaches were saying I was between one and three seconds ahead, and Pinter is strong, so I knew it would be tight.”
Fortunately, Smith’s strength is carrying speed on the flats, and he secured the win on the final push into the stadium.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a win by half a second or more, it’s still a win,” Smith said.
Injuries sidelined Smith early in the season, however, his skiing and shooting are rounding into form at the right time with the world championships just around the corner.
Biathlon Canada head coach Matthias Ahrens said the team knew Smith was skiing well, but couldn’t predict he’d win three medals in a row.
“Nathan really surprised us. To win three times is very respectable and definitely a rare accomplishment,” Ahrens said.
What surprised his coach the most is the fact Smith was able to race so well during an intense training block.
Smith skipped the individual race on Wednesday at the request of his coaches following altitude training Tuesday at Mount Shark. Although it may have cost him another medal and a wad of prize money, Smith hopes it will help him perform at the world championships later this month.
“If I can keep having results like this, I can have a top 20 there,” Smith said.
Marc-Andre Bedard also finished well, placing fifth on the day, 24 seconds behind Smith.
“I was in a lot of pain, but good pain from the whole week. I was able to go fast,” Bedard said.
He was in seventh going into the last lap, but was able to push his way to victory.
“It was really tough on the last lap, but I pushed hard and finished fifth,” Bedard said.
Scott Gow missed three targets, but had the second fastest ski time of the day to finish 17th. The race was a vindication for Gow, who impressed his coaches after a tough week.
“He’s the young buck on the team and was in a tough spot, so it’s good to see him do well,” said Ahrens.
Other top Canadians included Robin Clegg (16th), Scott Perras (24th), Matthew Neumann (29th), Tyson Smith (35th), Patrick Cote (36th) and Beau Thompson (45th).
In the 20 km individual race on Wednesday (Feb. 15), which slaps shooters with one minute penalties for missed targets, Neumann was the top Canadian (57:54.6), 3:26 behind the winner Ludwig Ehrhart of France. Neumann shot 17/20 to finish in 16th place, which proved to be his best result of the week.
Other Canadian finishers were Gregoire (24th), Clegg (28th), Cote (30th), Tyson Smith (34th) and Thompson (35th).
For full results, visit www.biathlonworld.com