Catching up with the Canadian Team…

At the end of every season, the Canadians head back across the Atlantic, train all summer in Canmore and then return to Europe just before the start of the next season. This year was not much different. Except for a small group that competed at the Blinkfestivalen, the Canadian team trained primarily at home preparing for the new BMW IBU World Cup season, but at the same time, adding a few tweaks by Head Coach Justin Wadsworth as they enter a new Olympic cycle.

4-8 Year Vision

Although the team’s home base at the Canmore Nordic Centre, at the foot of the Canadian Rockies is at 1425 meters, a high-altitude camp at the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue in Utah is part of their annual program. Wadsworth recently discussed his training plan while following his charges up the last kilometers of a 3 hour-rollerski session, ending at 3,000 meters, high above Park City. “Leading up to Beijing, I did not feel comfortable pushing the group I inherited three years ago into an intensive altitude program. But now with this younger crew we have a new 4-8-year vision, building altitude camps slowly, getting data on everyone. This is our first true altitude camp to get that data, especially with our younger athletes.”

Volume in Utah

The Utah camp is special for the cash-strapped Canadians. “It is expensive for us to come here for two weeks. It is a bit of a nugget; they have worked so hard this summer. It is a good change to shoot at a different range and train hard at 2500-3000 meters; everyone has embraced the hard work. It is a very nice volume period before we go home for a week of rest and then get back on snow (for the final push to the new season).”

Home for the Holidays

Continuing to explain the new training plan, he added, “We are also tweaking our travel schedule. We will come back home at Christmas for a 3-week training period, skipping Pokljuka. With all of the travel we do, you need a big training block to get through the season and Championships. Being on the road from November to March is just too much on the athletes, especially mentally. As we take on another four-year push, I want this first year to be a bit more relaxed, keeping the long-term vision in mind.”

Fresh Faces

While mixing up the training plan for upcoming seasons, Wadsworth also revamped the face of the National team adding five young fresh faces: Zachary Connelly, Pascale Paradis, Logan Pletz, Jenna Sherrington and Benita Peiffer. “We are in an interesting transition (period), with experienced athletes like Christian Gow and Emma Lunder on our team, but we are also fast-tracking five younger athletes into the program. A tall order, but we had good run through with Adam Runnalls who I took on three years ago. He had solid results in Beijing (30th pursuit, 33rd individual) and will be looking for top 15’s this season. I feel real strongly about this young group that is working hard to get to that level. They will spend some time on the IBU Cup but will be in the World Cup to have more time with (shooting coach) Pavel Lantsov. The next couple of seasons are extended training and development time for them. This is a different development model than you normally see. However, you have to realize that we have a very small pool of athletes…We have to maximize the talent we have.”

Focus on Shooting

Lantsov explained his approach regarding shooting. “We are doing things differently with the younger athletes compared to the veterans, working a lot on basics, accuracy, position and being comfortable. Here in Utah, the athletes have no jobs or other distractions, so our goal is 6 hours of dry firing and SCAT shooting during the camp. We will work on the basics for a bit longer before starting to shoot faster as the season approaches. It is really good to have them working with our experienced athletes like Christian and Emma as examples of how to shoot; both are among the best in the World Cup.”

Encouraging Results

Over the course of the summer, the Canadians hold two Testivals that include speed and accuracy shooting, uphill double-poling, and biathlon races. Those fitness/skills check-ups provided encouraging results as winter approaches, according to Wadsworth. “It is nice to see some of the younger athletes like Logan Pletz or Zach Connelly in the top two or three right behind Christian Gow in some cases, showing some of the fastest ski speeds. Getting them to shoot consistently is our goal right now. On the women’s side, Sherrington, Paradis and Peiffer did well. It has been fun to see all of them perform well, get some confidence while realizing their training is starting to pay off.”


With summer training about over, thoughts of on-snow training loom large, when the Canmore Nordic Centre puts stored snow on the tracks. “After Utah, we have a rest week and then the Frozen Thunder opens on the 19th. We will start with another of week of volume before we start to crank things up as the season approaches.”

Relays and Youth

Looking to the new season and the new quadrennial, Wadsworth thinks his team’s future success revolves around relays. “Our focus is on the relays. We were almost disappointed in our 6th in Beijing, thinking that we were a bit better than that. We were fifth in Antholz, so we thought we might even have a shot at a higher place. At the same time, we have the goals of getting some top 10s or better with our more experienced athletes.”

The coach is optimistic as winter approaches. “This is a young team; we are looking towards the future, but we also have some really good veterans, especially Christian and Emma who are helping them get there.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Biathlon Canada, Anna Sellers

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