Tag Archives: Canada

Kocher: One more round in her maga-Zina?

kocher

It’s not everyone who gets to fulfil their dreams. For example my dream of world domination is not going very well at the moment! My second dream of ruling the world of biathlon has been equally unsuccessful! One person who has been lucky enough to fulfil theirs however is Zina Kocher. After being inspired by the Winter Olympics held in Alberta in 1988 she dreamed of competing for Canada at the Games one day. She has done it 3 times.

Like my dream of ruling the world, becoming a professional athlete who is good enough to be selected to compete for your country is not an easy task. In fact it takes a huge amount not just of talent, but also of motivation and determination. Zina Kocher has all 3 three of these in spades! (I do not!)

Zina has a very animal based background. She was born in Red Deer, Alberta on the 5th of December 1982. At age 7 she joined the Jackrabbit cross country ski program and she also killed a bear when she was three. No wait a minute that was Davy Crocket – easy mistake to make! 😉 She took up biathlon at age 15 and after high school moved to Canmore to train with the Rocky Mountain Racers (who disappointingly seem to have no animal connection at all!)

She made the World Junior Team the first year and the rest is history! She has gone on to compete in 3 Olympic Games including a home one in Vancouver and an incredible 11 World Championships. In season 2006/7 she came third in the Individual Race in Oestersund on the World Cup and became the first Canadian to stand on the podium in over a decade.

The best result she achieved in the Olympics was actually this year in Sochi. She came 25th in the Pursuit race there. The Canadian Women’s relay team finished 8th in Sochi which is a great improvement from 17th in Turin and 15th in Vancouver. Zina was in all of these teams and last season saw the Canadian ladies grab an amazing 4th place finish in the relay in Annecy up against some really strong opposition. Along with Rosanna Crawford, Megan Imrie and Megan Heinicke, Zina has helped make the team one to watch out for next season. Although there is a place up for grabs after Mehan Imrie’s retirement.

It’s not just in the relay that the Canadian ladies help each other out though. In 2009 she was part of a nude fundraising calendar called the Bold, Beautiful, Biathlon calendar along with fellow biathletes Megan Tandy, Sandra Keith, Rosanna Crawford and Megan Imrie. As well as raising funds for the biathletes it was a chance for them to promote the image of a healthy athletic body for young girls. What is also impressive is that at the time Kocher was in fact a fully funded biathlete and did it to help her fellow biathletes.

This season will see Zina take part in her 12th World Championships in Kontiolahti. The Canadian team as a whole had a great last season and they will all be looking for further improvement this time around. Their relay teams have realistic chances of winning medals at the Championships and Zina will provide the experience for them. With 3 Olympic Games under her belt already she will be a great help to the Canadian squad as well as wanting to improve her own performances. I don’t know what her plans for the future are but might she go for another Olympics in Pyeonchang – has Kocher got one more round in her maga-Zina? I hope so! It would be amazing to see her at a 4th Games!

Check out Zina’s website: http://zinakocher.com/
Follow her on Twitter: @ZinaKocher
Like her Facebook Page: ‘Zina Kocher’


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Lean, mean and Green!

green

Most of you will know Brendan Green from his part in the Canadian Team’s amazing performances last season. So you may be surprised to hear that just under 2 years ago he was spending most of his time in bed! Lazy b*****d! That’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it! Well you are wrong! Unfortunately for Brendan he was bed ridden for a different reason.

It all started with a herniated disc in his back initially caused by weightlifting in the gym. Twelve weeks after surgery he was still in pain and had to undergo a second operation which left him with great difficulty walking, dressing or even getting out of bed. His disc was herniated again and there was a real possibility that he may not be able to compete anymore. Luckily for him and us there was a Hollywood style ending to the story and he made a full recovery and went to the Olympics in Sochi.

Unlike the films however it was a long, slow process to get back into competitive shape. It isn’t just hard physically to recover from injury. In fact the mental side is probably more difficult. Going from your peak shape to not being able to walk is a drastic change and requires considerable mental fortitude to deal with especially for an athlete. Fortunately for Brendan he had amazing support from family, teammates and his girlfriend fellow biathlete Rosanna Crawford.

Brendan comes from “The Hub of the North” Hay River in Canada’s Northwest Territories where was born on the 4th of November 1986. He has 2 Junior World titles to his name both won in the relay, a silver in 2005 and a bronze in 2007. Last season was his best ever on the World Cup. He finished in the Top 20 four times and achieved a career best result in Antholz coming 8th in the Sprint. He took this form into the Sochi Olympics too finishing an impressive 9th in the Mass Start.

You might think that that was his best result at the Olympics but regular readers of this blog know that it was his 23rd place in the Sprint that really caught the eye. This meant that he had the honour of representing Biathlete23 in the Men’s Pursuit. It’s a high pressure task though and he finished 35th but kindly sent me a photo of bib23 from Sochi. It also happens to be Rosanna’s favourite number (clearly a woman of good taste!) and so we were both disappointed!!! 😉

Next season should be an interesting one for Canada’s biathletes. With the retirement of JP Le Guellec it now falls on the likes of Brendan to keep up the good results. After his astonishing return from a serious injury he will be aiming to improve his personal results and continue the excellent progress of both the Men’s and the Mixed relay teams. I am sure he would like to get into the TOP 5 on the World Cup and I don’t think a podium finish is out of the question either.

The World Championships are in March and it would be amazing to see a Canadian medalist there whether it’s Brendan or any of the other team members. If he gets bib23 again this year though he better pull a great result out of the bag! Whatever results he achieves next season we are just happy to have him back healthy and able to compete. Let’s hope he can stay lean, mean and Green for a long time to come!

Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendanjgreen

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Hurricane Murphy!

murphy

Don’t panic! It’s not the weather forecast for the rest of the week in Oestersund.( Well at least I hope it’s not because it would make the shooting pretty interesting and it’s been windy enough already!)It is in fact the title of my post about New Zealand biathlete Sarah Murphy. The nickname “hurricane” comes from her tendency to arrive, cause some kind of disaster and then leave. Slightly worrying for someone who uses skis, poles and a rifle in her chosen sport!!!

Sarah was in fact born in Canada but has dual nationality with New Zealand. She decided to represent New Zealand as she would become their first female biathlete and give her a chance to develop the sport in the country. However it is a choice that has probably made her life a lot more difficult. With no funding from her country and a difficult qualifying standard set for her for the Olympics she has a lot more on her mind than just training.

She has found a lot of help however from within the close knit and extremely nice biathlon community. She travelled with the Ukrainian team for 2 seasons and the Slovenia wax team took care of her skis last season. However like biathletes from the “smaller” biathlon nations she still struggles for funding in what can be a very expensive sport.

Sarah was lucky enough to compete in the Vancouver Olympics, which having grown up in Canada were also her home Olympics. A fantastic experience for anyone I am sure even though her results were maybe not all she was hoping for. She was only 22 at the time so the experience of a Games would surely have made up for any disappointment with her performance.

Still young in biathlon terms Sarah is just 25 years old. She has a lot of time ahead of her to improve and if she could break into the Top 40 this season it would be a massive achievement for her. She has finished just outside the Top 40 on two occasions and she definitely has the potential and desire to get there.

It would be amazing if Sarah can qualify for the Olympics(not least because she will celebrate her birthday right in the middle of it!). For New Zealand to have a representative there can only help to grow the popularity of the sport in that country. The residents of Sochi might not like a bad weather warning but I would love to see Hurricane Murphy hitting The Laura Stadium in February!(I just wouldn’t want to clear it up afterwards!)

Good luck Sarah!

You can follow Sarah on Facebook and Twitter and she also has her own blog:
http://murphy-biathlon.blogspot.co.uk/

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Update as of 20/01/2014.Unfortunately Sarah isn’t going to make it to Sochi! A total travesty of justice if you ask me!!!

Le Guellec: CAN he do it?

jp

I for one was quite surprised when Jean-Philippe Le Guellec won last season’s opening Sprint race in Oestersund. Not because of JP winning, because he has always had the potential to do it, but because he was the first Canadian man to stand on the podium let alone win a race at the World Cup.

Canada is well known for Winter Sports especially their impressive alpine skiing team so you would have thought they would have had a few more successes since Myriam Bedard won double Olympic gold in 1994. The truth is though that biathlon is a sport traditionally dominated by Europeans and in fact Canada only boasts one other athlete, Zina Kocher, who has reached the podium. Coincidentally she did this in Oestersund too finishing 3rd in the Individual in 2006.
However the North Americans are fighting back with Tim Burke’s silver medal in Nove Mesto and JP’s debut win. They are progressing slowly but surely and hopefully will challenge the traditional biathlon giants like Norway, Russia and Germany this season.

Le Guellec was born on the 31st of July 1985 in Kingston, Canada and grew up in Quebec making him fluent in English and French. He started doing biathlon at the age of 13 in the Canadian Royal Air Cadet Movement and after 2 years Daniel Lefebvre recruited him to race in the civilian program. He began competing in biathlon in 1999 and joined the national team in 2003. He enjoyed a successful junior career winning 3 medals at the Junior World Championships. He has competed in 2 Olympic Games and was obviously inspired by his home Games in Vancouver where he finished a creditable 6th in the Sprint, his highest finish in that event at the time.
He started to make his presence felt in the 2008/9 season where he finished in the Top 10 twice and finished a career high 32nd in the Total Score. Despite his first win last season he finished a slightly lower 35th overall. He did however finish in the Top 40 of every discipline last year and helped Canada to 16th spot in the Nation’s Cup.

So what about this season for JP? Well not resting on his laurels he has been training with a Swedish cross-country sprint specialist on his ski technique. This is in an effort to better his efficiency, power and fluidity on skis. In July he headed to Canmore to an annual test to see if all the new training has paid off. Without going into detail I am happy to report that both his skiing and shooting have shown a marked improvement. With a decent summer of training behind him JP looks like he will be heading into next season in good shape.

So can he be the first Canadian man to win a medal at the Sochi Olympics? Well he is a good outside bet for a podium in at least one of the events and he has had his best results so far in the Sprint. CAN he do it? Let’s hope so! It would be great for Canadian and North American biathlon if he could!

Have a look at JP’s website in English and French: http://www.jpleguellec.biz/en/home.php

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Of Para-mount Importance.

zaripov

Everyone is talking about the Sochi Winter Olympics. Who will take home the gold? Svendsen or Fourcade? Berger or Zaitseva? Whoever wins it’s going to be exciting stuff, but please don’t forget that there are 2 Olympic Games in Sochi next year. From the 7th to the 16th of March the Paralympic Games is also taking place.

Biathlon has been a Paralympic sport since 1988 when it was introduced in the Innsbruck Games for athletes with physical impairment. Since 1992 athletes with visual impairment have also been able to compete.

The program consists of 12 events, 6 for men and 6 for women. The athletes are divided into 3 categories which are standing,for those who are able to use the same equipment as able-bodied skiers, sitting and visually impaired. Athletes in the sitting category use a sit-ski or mono-ski to compete. It consists of a fitted chair over a single ski and makes use of a suspension device to help minimize wear and tear on the athlete’s body.

Athletes who are visually impaired use an electronic rifle which allows them to aim by hearing. The increasingly louder acoustic signals emitted as the rifle is pointed towards the centre of the target mean that the athletes aim by sound instead of sight. They are also accompanied by a sighted guide and are recognised as a team by the awarding of duel medals.

The men and women compete in the Pursuit and Individual races. They also compete over the same distances, around 3km in the Pursuit and 12.5km in the Individual, apart from the women’s sitting individual which is slightly shorter at 10km.

The growth of biathlon since 1988 has been very promising. In the first year there were only 3 medal events and no female competitors. In the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver there were 12 medal events competed for by 18 different countries made up of 61 male and 34 female biathletes. The competitors come from the usual biathlon countries like Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Norway and also Canada and The U.S. amongst others.

So who should you look out for in the games next year? Well as it’s in Russia here are a couple of medal contenders for the home country. Irek Zaripov(pictured above) was born on March 27, 1983, in Sterlitamak. He lost both legs in a motorcycle accident at aged 17. He has taken part in 2 Paralympic games in Turin and Vancouver, the latter being much more successful as he won 4 gold medals and 1 silver in biathlon and cross-country skiing sitting events. He received the Order of Merit from the Russian President and he is an ambassador for the Sochi Games. In 2011 he won another 6 medals this time in the IPC Biathlon and Cross Country Skiing World Championships in Russia and therefore is one of the favourites to medal in March.

For the ladies there is fellow Russian Mikhailina Lysova. Competing in the visually impaired section she works with her guide Alexey Ivanov. Now that her nemesis Germany’s Vernea Bentele has retired Lysova has a great chance winning in Sochi. She finished 3rd in both the Pursuit and Individual in Vancouver behind Bentele but in the 2011 World Championships she won gold in both biathlon events and also silver in the relay. Her main competition will come from fellow Russian Elena Remizova so the home country can look forward to a lot of potential medals.

So please remember after you have finished cheering for your countrymen and favourites in February don’t forget to watch the Paralympic Games in March. It’s of para-mount importance!

For information about the Paralympic Games see: http://www.paralympic.org/Events/Sochi2014

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