After the first World Cup in Finland in December, it was a short trip home for Christmas. Next stop was Ostersund in Sweden for World Cup number two. Ostersund is a well known venue around the world in able bodied biathlon racing so it was exciting to be going there, to race on the same courses our abled bodied friends. Although I knew it would be tough, it’s what any athlete wants to do, test theirselves on the toughest courses around the world and race on the same courses as elite abled body racers.
As you can imagine Sweden know how to put on a Cross country/biathlon event! The set up was brilliant; from the transport links to the hotel itself and the food it served. The venue was well set up and the tracks for the racing we’re awesome - a mix of technical work though wooded areas a few tough climbs and some flat areas where you really had to work hard to keep your speed.
Although the field wasn’t as big as normal for a World Cup event, most of the big hitters were there so it was great to race against them all again.
My aim for Sweden was to use it much like Finland the month before, as training as well as race experience due to still trying to catch up on the training I missed over the summer months. I was again happy with my performance in both Cross Country (CC) and Biathlon (BT). I finished 11th, 10th and 7th in the CC events and 11th, 9th and 7th in the BT events.
Osterund was also the our selection event for the World Championships in Canada the following month and I’m happy to say the whole squad hit the selection criteria needed so we would all be on the plane to Canada to represent Great Britain.
Sweden was also our teammate, Terry’s, last competitive event as he has decided to hang up his racing boots (again). Terry competed at the 1998 Paralympic Games and was a massive part in getting this team up and running. He will be missed not only for the knowledge the old man had but also his witty one liners. Thanks for everything pal and no doubt you’ll come out of retirement again soon, just don’t leave it 20 years this time.
World Championship Canada (PRINCE GEORGE)
So this was it. The World Championships. The biggest sporting event I’ve ever competed in as an elite athlete and strangely I felt ok about it a little nervous but nothing I’d not felt before.
The team had travelled out to Canada a week before the competition started this was to get over the jet lag, ski at the venue and also get used to the temperature. It was -29c most mornings but it did get to between -12c to -19.8c for racing. This was lucky for us as we can’t race if it’s colder than -20c. Although I’m sure the race organisers all around the world have temperature gauges that stop at -19.8c because even on the coldest days it’s always -19.8c.
The race format for the event was pretty much the same as all the World Cups. Myself and Scott would be racing the 3 CC and 3 BT event while Callum, Rachel and Steve T would be racing the 3 CC events. Training was going well and everyone was feeling positive the only slight worry we had was did we have the right skis and waxes for these cold temperatures but all our worry’s were soon put to bed when Bengt, our Swedish magician of a wax tech, turned up and played a blinder.
Waxing is a very important part of our sport, if you get it wrong you can lose minutes in a race but I’m happy to say Bengt did it again and gave us very good skis for training and racing.
With every nation there, being the World Champs, this was going to show myself and the team where we really sat in the world rankings.
I felt ready this was it the event I had been targeting all season and I’m very happy how my competition went.
In the CC I came 13th, 13th,and 11th and in BT 13th, 11th and 11th - making it my most successful event to date. I know my results in Sweden sound better but the field was smaller there so to me this was a bigger test with everyone being there.
The race I’m most proud of is the very last race the 15k CC. Not only because I skied well, but I was first off so I was like the fox getting hunted by the hounds. Thankfully no one caught me but it made it a lonely race so my mindset had to be right to be alone for 50+ mins and that’s what I’m proud of. Not worrying just getting on with my race and getting my best result because of that.
The whole team had a very good Worlds. Sadly Steve T got unwell and had to fly home but I know the man he is and that has made him hungrier for next season. Scott had his and the teams best result ever a 6th place in the 15k CC and not that far off a medal. Callum performed brilliant again and I had a little battle with him in the 7.5k CC which we both enjoyed. Rachel is doing an amazing job coming into this new sport from rowing and I’m sure she will be up there in the seasons to come.
Next up is summer training with testing blocks in Norway and various places in the UK. I’m looking forward to snow time already but right now it’s time to chill for a few weeks and make memories with the family.
Thanks to our coaches and staff and GB snowsports. Great Britain is starting to become a para winter sport big hitter.
Here’s to next season and beyond.