Canadian Collin Cameron is a para-biathlete and cross country skier in the sitting category. At the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games he won three bronze medals, two in biathlon and one in cross country at his first attempt. The 30-year-old also won his first World Cup para-nordic race in PyeongChang in 2017 in the cross country Sprint. He was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that causes a shortening of the lower limbs and an under-development of muscles and tendons in the legs. Currently living in Sudbury, Ontario he works as a a safety compliance and driver trainer. He received a nomination for best facial hair in the Biathlon23 Awards – probably his best achievement to date! 😉
Why did you become a biathlete?
I was getting classified in early 2016 at the team USA nationals camp in Vermont and my coach at the time (Kaspar Wirz), basically said you should try this, so I did. I saw it as an opportunity for more race starts! I had never shot in my life, nor did I have much interest in doing it if I’m totally honest.
Two L’s in Collin! What’s that about? Do you get annoyed when people only spell it with one L? Or have you developed some coping mechanisms to deal with it?!! 😉
My mother always liked the name, but didn’t want it pronounced as colon so she figured having a second L would assure that never happened and also make it a little more unique. I commonly get just one L, so I’m just used to it now.
You got two bronze medals in biathlon at the Paralympic in PyeongChang. Where did that come from?! Tell me about the races and your emotions at the end?
Not really sure where it came from. I don’t train for biathlon at home, only just getting access to a range a month before Games, my only training until that point was at training camps or during World Cups. My skiing was not the best early season, but my shooting was still there in Canmore (World Cup 1), same can be said for Oberried (WC2). Things just came together at the right time for me in Korea and I found some of my speed and pace I was missing all season until then. The 7.5km race was the first race of the Games and I set it out as a warm-up race for me to get all the bugs out and get things moving in preparation for the cross country sprint which is the race I was planning everything around. So it was an obvious shock for me to be in third after crossing the line! I didn’t really believe it.
The 15km race was interesting because it was a bit of a last minute decision to race it. I had only done the Individual once ever before (in Oberried), but we were confident in my shooting so we figured I should just enter. I knew I was in it after the last round of shooting when all the range staff were at the bottom of the first climb yelling at me to go. I managed to find a bit extra turnover after hearing that. I was met by our team psych Dr. J after the finish line and he said I was sitting third with guys still to come. I thought for sure that was going to be temporary, knowing there are some amazing biathletes still out there that hadn’t finished. Once it was confirmed though, I was so thrilled, probably more so than after the 7.5km race. It was an amazing feeling sharing the podium that day with Dan Cnossen (who had a phenomenal games), and Martin Fleig (World Champion from Finsterau). I think also it was a sweeter feeling because I was able to regroup after my 4th place in the cross country sprint, which I was somewhat disappointed with because I had targeted that as my main race. The staff on the team said I came to Korea as a sprinter and left a biathlete, which is hard to argue with!
Sorry to repeat it but you finished 4th in the cross country sprint in such a close finish. Were you a bit gutted about that or happy that you were still challenging for a medal?
Totally gutted. We had planned all the other races around that day (and possibly relay day), so it definitely felt like a disappointment to be so close, in what is normally my strongest event. All that being said, it was still probably one of my best races! I also think it was a super important learning opportunity for me. The biggest gain from that was the discussion with my coaches on how to deal with that disappointment and how to transfer that into the next few days of racing. That was huge for me, and I was able to turn that missed chance into a second bronze in the 15km biathlon.
You won a bronze in the cross country relay with Brian McKeever in the secretly Scottish team! What was that race like for you?
Being on that open relay team was by far one of my favourite moments of the Games. It was a huge honour to be on the same team with a guy like Brian, who is a legend in the para world. I think it was also a testament to how hard I worked all year to stay healthy and find my form for the Games that the coach and Brian had the confidence in me to have us as a two man team. I was really looking forward to this opportunity since mid summer when we did some time trials in New Zealand when our coach was looking at possible relay teams. I had never done a relay before and the idea of being on a relay team, and possibly the same relay team with Brian, was definitely motivating and maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity. We had a really good idea going in that it would be a three person team for the open relay, but it wasn’t until the day before that things were shuffled around and I found out I was going to be doing two legs, not just one with Brian. I got a crash course from Brian and Graham Nishikawa his guide the morning of race day on how the exchange zone worked and that was pretty much it! We had a bit of fortune in the fact that the Ukrainian team had a time penalty for an early exchange, and I lost us a tonne of time on my second leg because I has some pole issues on the last climb. It was definitely an emotional experience for me, finishing 4th again, to having that upgraded moments later to 3rd. To finish that day on the podium with Brian, his guide Russell Kennedy (and Graham, who guided Brian on the first lap and every bit deserved sharing that moment with us) will always be a fond moment when I look back at my first Paralympics.
PyeongChang was your first Paralympic Games. What did you make of the whole experience and what did you learn from it?
I learned that you can’t always measure success on how many medals you get. I had some of my best races at the Games and finished 4th and 5th. The 4th on sprint day was a very important day for me as a whole when I look at going forward with this sport and what I want to achieve in it.
What are your goals for this season in biathlon? Will you focus everything on performing well in Prince George at your home World Championships?
Main focus this year is to continue to learn and keep my focus for the next Winter Games in 2022.
You don’t live in Canmore like some of the rest of the team. And you have a job. Where and when do you train?
I train after work almost every day, sometimes on some local roads closer to home, others a little further out of town on the old highway for longer workouts. I start my workday at 4am so I can finish around 2pm to have training time in the afternoon before my wife is done work so we can still have a somewhat normal life together in the evenings, which is super important.
Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?
I have to give a shout out to Scott Meenagh here. He said in an interview a year or two ago that I was his favourite biathlete. Right back at ya, Scotty! (Not any old interview Collin, he said it in a biathlon23 interview!!!)
Does your rifle have a name?
The rifle I use is technically the teams rifle, so I never thought of naming it. I’d have to give this some serious thought when the days comes that I have my own rifle!
Describe yourself in three words.
easy-going, driven, and hairy.
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Totally neutral, can’t pick a favourite.
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Mark Arendz. His samurai design is pretty cool and unique on the para side, as there are not many custom rifle designs.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Our suit design for the Games is my favourite!
Favourite shooting range: Canmore. It’s tough to beat that view!
Lucky bib number: 3
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Emily Young. Purely based on her love and passion for the sport of biathlon. (? 😉 )
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Martin Fleig and Trygve S. Larson.
Best thing about being a biathlete: 3 extra race start opportunities 😉
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