Tag Archives: Para nordic World Championships 2019

Kyle Barber: The Interview!

Kyle Barber is a Canadian para biathlete and cross country skier. The 27-year-old who lives in Sudbury, Ontario has been racing since 2016. He was born with underdeveloped and missing fingers on both hands, known as symbrachydactyly, which means he skis without using poles.

Follow Kyle on Instagram: k.barber.para.nordic
and Facebook: Kyle Barber ParaNordic/Biathlon

Why did you become a Para nordic athlete?

It all started from a Paralympic talent search held in Toronto, Ontario in early 2016. I went to Toronto, performed a few athletic tests and the results stated that I would be good at either cross country skiing or cycling. I chose cross country skiing because of the biathlon aspect to it and my hunting background. I met the previous Canadian Para Biathlon Coach, Kaspar (Wirz), and my current Ontario Coach, Patti (Kitler) , shortly there after and the rest is history.

How do you assess last season? What were you happy with and what disappointed you?

I assess last season as a success! I managed to gain WPNS points during the World Cup in Finland. I was not toohappy with my results at World Championships in British Columbia but I was able to shoot my first few clean rounds at in a race at World Championships. Currently I keep comparing season to season and so far it has all been a climb upwards.

What was it like competing at a home World Championships?

Competing on home soil for the World Championships was the best part about last year’s season. To have the local support and fans cheering me on around the race course really helped me keep going. I was not a fan of what seemed to be continual uphills because of skiing without poles.

You have only done a few biathlon races so far. How did you find them?

Biathlon and cross country skiing is tough! I have had a very short career thus far and I am still learning lots everyday. Biathlon is a challenge that seemed to be winning but I am not giving up on it and looking forward to performing better this upcoming season.

You have Mark Arendz and Brittany Hudak as teammates in standing biathlon. Do you get to train much with them? Have they given you any advice?

Unfortunately I do not get a lot of training time with my 2 teammates, who live in Canmore Alberta, but they are more than willing to answer my questions and let me bounce tactics off them. I do however get to train with Collin Cameron more as we are both living/training in Sudbury.

What are your plans for summer training?

Actually Collin and I just finished a training camp with our Canadian Biathlon coach John Jacques here in Sudbury. We are also getting ready to head to the Snow Farm in New Zealand leaving July 31st for 2.5 weeks. I will continue training at home while having 2 more camps in Canmore prior to the Norway World Cup in December.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I am stubborn. I consider that to be both a strength and weakness due to the fact I will not give up. It just all depends on the situation and how it looks when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture. My 2 biggest weaknesses while racing though is wearing glasses and trying to keep my hand/only finger warm. Since I only have the one thumb and terrible circulation, I can not wear contacts and it is hard to feel the trigger when my hand has gone numb.

What are your goals for this season?

My goals for this season are to keep improving my skiing and shooting techniques. This will entail in having better performances and results all around.

Do you have a job? If so how do you fit your training around it?

I work 40+hours a week depending on a lot of variables. Fortunately this job can be physical and I am always working outdoors. When it comes to training my coach and I make it fit, make it work and by far, make it count!

Do you have a favourite track yet? Where is it and why?

Currently my favourite track is in Canmore due to the fact of the surrounding picturesque mountain scenery. I have been told by many that this might change come August.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present/IBU or IPC) and why?

I thoroughly enjoy the time spent with my teammates. They all have great personalities and quite honestly I am not too familiar with or about others.

Does your rifle have a name?

It does not.

Describe yourself in three words.

Stubborn haha, challenge seeker, opportunist.

What the best thing about being a biathlete?

Everything!

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Para-Biathlon World Champs 2019: Prince George!

I’m not sure how the International Paralympic Committee got permission from the Royal family to let Prince George host the Para-Nordic World Championships but the little guy did a good job!!! Of course not! They were held in Prince George, Canada! 😉

There were three biathlon races, the middle on Saturday 16th February, the sprint on Wednesday 20th February and the individual on Thursday the 21st of February.

Biathlon Middle:

There were surprise wins in the sitting categories with neither of the pre-races favourites, Americans Kendall Gretsch and Daniel Cnossen, taking the wins. Instead the women’s title went to fellow American Oksana Masters who missed 3 targets from 20 but Gretsch missed 4 on the final shoot after having hit the first 15. She still got silver and Germany’s Andrea Eskau took the bronze medal hitting 19/20.

In the men’s race Ukrainian Taras Rad won the gold medal hitting the perfect 20/20. He finished ahead of Canada’s Collin Cameron who despite 3 misses got his best biathlon result to date. The bronze medal went to Eui Hyun Sin of South Korea with 1 miss.

There was also a shock in the women’s standing. After winning all of the World Cup races this season the Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova became unstuck with this one. Her teammate Liudmyla Liashenko grabbed gold with 3 misses, Yuliia Betnkova-Baumann was second with 2 misses. Kononova took bronze also missing 3 to make it an all Ukrainian podium.

The men’s standing went more to form. France’s Benjamin Daviet was the only man to shoot 20/20 and so no one could stop him winning the gold medal. Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset missed 3 but skied hard to take silver. Canadian Mark Arendz finished third with just 1 miss.

The vision impaired (VI) races went exactly to form. German Clara Klug missed 3 but still took the title with guide Martin Hartl. Oksana Shyshkova from the Ukraine missed 1 and finished in the silver medal position with guide Vitalii Kazakov. Bronze went to Ukraine’s 16-year-old Andriana Kupustei and guide Nazar Stefurak at their debut World Championships.

In the men’s race Yury Holub from Belarus missed 1 shot to win the gold medal with guide Dzmitry Budzilovich. Vitaliy Luk’yanenko of Ukraine hit 20/20 to take silver with guide Borys Babar. France’s Anthony Chalencon missed 5 but skied well to get bronze with guide Simon Valverde.

Biathlon Sprint

Amazingly considering this is biathlon and anything can happen every single winner in every class won again in the sprint meaning we had 6 double World Champions! Yury Hulub missed 1 in the men’s VI but held off Ukrainians Dmytro Suiarko and guide Vasyl Potapenko who took silver with 10/10 on the range and Anatolii Kovalevskyi and guide Oleksander Mukshyn who took bronze with 2 misses.

Clara Klug took gold with 1 miss in the women’s race. Oksana Shyshkova missed 3 and had to settle for silver ahead of clean shooting Adriana Kapustei.

Benjamin Daviet shot clean again to take the men’s standing title. Behind him also shooting 10/10 were Ukrainian Gregorii Vovchynski in second and Mark Arendz in third.

Liudmyla Liashenko defeated her teammate Oleksandra Kononova on the tracks after both women missed a shot in the standing sprint. Norway’s Vilde Nilsen was third with 2 misses getting her first World Championship medal in biathlon after skipping the middle distance race.

Taras Rad was too quick for Germany’s Martin Fleig in the men’s sitting race after they both shot clean. Fleig took silver in bib23!!! The bronze medal went to Aaron Pike who won his first medal at a major event in biathlon with 1 miss.

Oksana Masters continued to surprise herself with back to back wins in biathlon after a tough summer with an elbow injury. She shot the same score as teammate Kendall Gretsch, both women missing 1 target, but was stronger on the skis. Third place went to Andrea Eskau with no misses.

Biathlon Individual

Benjamin Daviet continued his amazing form in the individual winning despite 1 miss which added a minute to his time. Mark Arendz in second, who had perfect shooting, and Gregorii Vovchynskyi in third with 1 miss could do nothing to stop him becoming a triple World Champion in biathlon.

There were another three triple World Champions crowned on Thursday. Liudmyla Liashenko with the perfect 20/20 led a podium clean sweep for Ukraine with Oleksandra Kononova in silver with a 2 misses and Yuliia Batenkova-Baumann getting bronze despite 3 misses.

There was another perfect shooting score in the women’s sitting with Kendall Gretsch finally getting her first gold medal at World Championships. Oksana Masters took the silver with 3 misses and Andrea Eskau got bronze with 1 miss.

Taras Rad won his third biathlon gold in bib23!!! 🙂 He beat Martin Fleig into second with 18/20 and Ukraine’s Vasyl Kravchuk was third with the same shooting score grabbing his first medal at this event.

Clara Klug was the final biathlete to secure triple gold with a clean shoot in the women’s VI. Her teammate Johanna Recktenwald with guide Simon Schmidt shot the same 20/20 to take bronze for her first World Championship medal. Oksana Shyshkova split the German pair with 1 miss costing her the chance of victory.

In the men’s VI it was Paralympic champion Vitaliy Luk’yanenko who got gold hitting all 20 targets. Yuru Holub missed 3 but finished only 10 seconds behind after a great ski. Ukraine’s Iaroslav Reshetynskyi and guide Kostiantyn Yaremenko won the bronze medal with 18/20.

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Derek Zaplotinsky: The Interview!

Derek Zaplotinsky is a Canadian para biathlete and cross country skier. He races in the sitting category and recently competed at his first Paralympic Games in PyeongChang. He lives in the awesomely named Smoky Lake, Alberta (which is the second best name for a lake!). He was paralysed in a motocross accident in 2006 when another bike landed on him. He initially tried hand cycling but made the smart decision to change to biathlon.

You can follow Derek on Twitter: @Derek_zap
Or Instagram: Derek_zap

Why did you become a biathlete?

Growing up in a small rural town in Alberta, shooting was something we enjoyed as kids. First with the pellet guns and then big game hunting. In all honesty I started cross country skiing because I wanted to do biathlon. I thought biathlon would be a fairly easy sport to compete in, with my experience with guns, but was I mistaken. I learned quickly it’s a lot harder than it looks. Biathlon is a sport that motivates me, I want the accuracy and speed while dealing with the heart rate and breathing.

PyeongChang was your first Paralympic Games. How did you find the experience overall?

The experience was overwhelming, but enjoyable. You train and prepare for years, but nothing can describe the feeling being there. You are competing against the best athletes in the world and the intensity level is high. I was proud to be representing my country and hopefully I’ll have the chance to experience this again in 2022.

Were you happy with your performances in Korea?

In all honesty, I was bummed with my performance. I went into the Games feeling good with my skiing and shooting. In the Biathlon sprint and 15 km cross country I was pleased with the 9th place results and was looking forward to putting it all together for the rest of the races. When it came to the middle distance biathlon I felt my skiing was good but my shooting was not consistent. Prior to the sprint cross country race I came down with a sinus infection, which definitely ended up hurting my performance for the rest of the Games.

Are you looking forward to the World Championships in Prince George? What are your goals for that event?

Yes, I did the Canadian Winter Games there 4 years ago and had some great results so I’m hoping it’s my good luck track. Without the extensive travel and no time difference to adjust to I would like to have a podium finish.

Do you still do summer training on a chair nailed to a skateboard or have you upgraded your equipment? 😉

Ha, Ha , Ha, not anymore. Upgraded and now use roller skis, works much better for shooting and simulates the position.

What are your plans for summer training?

A busy summer – there was a camp in Bend in June, I just got back from 3 weeks at the Snow Farm in New Zealand. It was good to be back on the snow, it helped break up the summer training. We have a camp in Mammoth Lakes in September, and I will make the 5 hour trip to Canmore for biathlon training as often as I can. If not at a camp, I ski around home following a daily program designed by my coach, along with a weekly strength program.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths – I would have to say would be my determination, and my competitiveness.
Weaknesses – I over think things and like to consistently play around with my sit ski, looking for the perfect fit.

What are your hobbies away from cross country and biathlon?

Really there is not a great amount of time for extra activities, if time and the weather works in my favor I enjoy boating with friends and snowmobiling in the mountains after the end of the season.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Finsterau, Germany. I had my best results of my career there so I can not wait to go back.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Dorothea Wierer, with Emily Young a close second. She’s like the sister I never wanted.

Does your rifle have a name?

No name, we still aren’t close friends, but I’m working on that.

Describe yourself in three words.

Focused, determined and sarcastic.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Italy
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Marketa Davidova. Who doesn’t love unicorns?
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Sweden
Favourite shooting range: Canmore
Lucky bib number: Haven’t found it yet.
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Brittany Hudak
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Mark Arendz
Best thing about being a biathlete: Travel

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Ian Daffern: The Interview!

Photo Credit: Les Berezowski Photography.

Ian Daffern is the head ski technician for the Canadian Para-nordic team. He has been to five Paralympic Games with the team starting in Salt Lake City and continuing all the way to the Winter Paralympics this past March in PyeongChang. He oversaw the skis for the 14 athletes who won a record 16 medals including 4 gold medals in cross country skiing but more importantly 1 in biathlon! 🙂

You can follow Ian on Twitter: @skiingwithian

Why did you become a ski technician? How long have you worked with the Para-nordic team?

I have been working with the Canadian Para-nordic team for 17 years. In the fall of 2001 Brian and Robin McKeever were looking for a ski technician to help them prepare and compete in the Salt Lake City Paralympics. They had just started with the team on the Para World Cup circuit and needed more ski and wax support on the race days. Since I had experience coaching at the same ski club and was friends with Brian and Robin it was a natural fit and as they say the rest is history. Five Paralympics later and I’m still excited to help as best I can in support of the Para team athletes quest for Gold.

The Canadian Para-nordic team had an amazing Paralympics. How did it feel to contribute towards that success?

Yes it was an unbelievable Paralympics for the team. It was amazing and very satisfying to see Canadian athletes on the podium everyday knowing the wax room technical plan and hard work since Sochi to prepare specifically for Korea was paying off. I have to thank my wax team of Laurent Roux, Bruce Johnson and Bjorn Taylor for believing and contributing to my personal Paralympics wax room goal of trying to have the best skis of the field for every race.

Can you describe what your typical day was like in PyeongChang?

A typical race day started with a 6am alarm followed by breakfast in the village food hall and a 7am bus to the race site. At the site we would check out the track conditions, have a quick discussion about the weather, snow and temperatures and start to prepare and plan the ski and wax testing for the morning prior to the athletes arrival. Once athlete skis, wax and structure selection was made the skis were prepared for racing just before the athletes start time. We had a runner who would bring the skis to the start line from the wax room. Strava records were broken everyday. 😉

Once the races were over, the afternoon was spent prepping, grinding and testing athletes skis for the next day races. Almost every night, due to the athletes success, the wax team would often go to the medal plaza for the 6:30pm ceremony followed by dinner back in the athletes village. After dinner there would be an athlete team meeting followed by a coaches / technicians meeting to go over the next days assignments usually finishing up by 10-11pm each night. Luckily Bruce is an expert at making cappuccinos on a wax iron so we were never short on caffeine!!

What is it like waxing in the cross country relay when you have someone racing two legs? What can you do to the skis in such a short time? Is it a bit stressful?!

It’s more of an adrenaline rush knowing you only have about 6-7 minutes to prep a pair of skis between relay legs. This was the case when Brian and Collin Cameron won bronze in the relay in Korea with each skier doing 2 legs. With the dirty snow conditions the main goal is to clean the skis right away and then apply a layer or two of the best testing flouro liquid or puck as quickly as possible. We were lucky to be able to bring a bench close to the exchange zone so it was fun to be in the thick of the action.

Are you excited about the World Championships coming to Canada? Will you have a wax advantage on home snow?! 😉

I am very excited to have the World Championships this upcoming season in Prince George. Head Coach Robin McKeever and I did a site visit in April to ski the trails and learn more about the conditions we can expect. I think and am hoping we will have a wax advantage since I plan to do some pre World Championship testing and we are familiar with the cold February conditions and snow in Canada. Some of the athletes on our team have competed on these trails before so they know what to expect. It will be a great event with challenging trails, a world class biathlon range and a enthusiastic organizing committee.

Are there any differences in waxing for para cross country than able bodied?

For a skier like Brian who is at a high level as an able bodied skier there are no differences. In classic skiing, grip waxing can slightly change for one arm or no arm skiers depending on the snow conditions as one pole or no poles can effect the amount of grip wax needed to climb the hills. Testing and waxing skate skis for the visually impaired and standing classes would be the same as for an able bodied program.

The biggest difference for sure would be in the sit ski category where there are many factors to consider such as whether the sit skier will use the tracks or race outside the tracks, the fact that the skis are always on the snow, the ability of the sit skier to control the skis on corners and on downhills etc. Most of the testing for sit skiers is done by the sit skiers whenever possible so they can test not only for speed and free glide but also their ability to turn and control the skis on corners. In a pinch though if time is tight one of the techs or coaches can run the sit skis since they have regular ski bindings on them.

Are you responsible for certain athletes skis or do help with them all?

As head technician I am responsible for the overall working of the wax room and all the athletes skis. Unlike many able bodied wax rooms I don’t assign specific techs to certain athletes skis as we are too small and few in number but instead have developed our own system of making sure each athlete has the correct skis for race day. I work closely with all the athletes each race to discuss and make sure the correct skis get tested pre race with the help of other coaches and technicians. Our grip wax specialist Laurent Roux will work only on classic skis but for all athletes on the team.

Have you ever had any waxidents? (accidents with wax)

Well most of our waxidents involve our grip waxer. 😉 He once set our wax table on fire with a heat gun and since he used a lot of soft klister wax in Korea our door knobs and everything else were always sticky. Perhaps the funniest waxident in Korea though was when I found klister wax all over our ski caddy which is used to take skis out on course for testing. It took a lot of wax remover to clean it up so I could use it for glide test skis again….

Do you have any good waxing tips for the non-expert?

Best advice for novices looking to make fast skate skis is to keep it simple. Sometimes the least expensive waxes can be the fastest especially in colder conditions so don’t be fooled by the price or amount of flouro as it doesn’t always correlate to ski speed. High flouro powders, gels, liquids and pucks for sure can be faster in humid and wetter snow so in those conditions try some of the newer waxing methods out such as the fleece buffer applications instead of ironing in powders and creating lots of fumes and smoke unless you have proper safety masks or good ventilation system. Also when the snow is wet, ski structure to prevent suction is more important than the wax so it’s good to invest in some basic ski structuring tools.

The Para-nordic season is pretty short with usually 3 World Cups and a major Championships. What do you do for the rest of the year?

Currently I am in Bend, Oregon (this was in June) where the Canadian Para team is having their first camp of the season. We normally have 3-4 camps in the off season which I help out at with the biggest being a 3 week skiing camp at the Snow Farm in New Zealand in August. Besides assisting at camps I am involved with planning, budgeting and purchasing equipment and wax for the upcoming racing season. Part of the this involves visiting the Fischer ski factory in October to select and pick up athletes skis followed by testing and a camp in Ramsau on the Dachstein glacier. Once we can ski in Canmore on the Frozen Thunder stored snow loop I am working with the athletes testing new skis and wax and preparing for the upcoming season. I often end up waxing at non para races throughout the winter season also.

Describe yourself in three words.

As a ski technician I would say organized, calm and relaxed.


Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlete: Mark Arendz of course!
Favourite track: Snow Farm, New Zealand.
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Sweden
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Samurai design on Mark’s rifle
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Funniest ski tech on the World Cup: Our grip waxer Laurent Roux !
Nicest ski tech on the World Cup: Steiner from the Norwegian Para Team
Best thing about being a ski tech: Celebrating a great day with the athletes.

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