Canada Team Preview

Oh, Canada! I will be honest I have a special affinity for Canada. Not just because my podcast partner calls Canada home, or even that my family may be moving there in the relatively near future, but because they are consistently some of the nicest and coolest people I’ve met. Far more quick to give a compliment, and terrible at receiving them, the Canucks are world renown for the simple fact of just being good people. Who couldn’t love that?

Unfortunately being great people hasn’t always lent itself to being great biathletes. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some solid Canadians but never consistently great. Myriam Bedard for example was a three time Olympic medalist, winning two gold in Individual and Sprint in Lillehammer and bronze in Individual in Albertville. She was actually the first biathlon gold medalist I ever watched. Now, do I remember actually watching her? No. But considering every possible minute of Winter Olympics was played in my house growing up it is a near sure thing I saw it!

While no Olympic medals for the recent Canadians that doesn’t mean they have been completely lacking in success. The 2016 Canadian men won the bronze medal at the Oslo World Championships, the crowning achievement of a golden generation of Canadian male biathletes. Today, the talent is still there and new highs are ready to be reached. Let’s check out the current squad.

Men

Quota: 4 athletes to start

Notable Retirements: Scott Gow, Aidan Millar

World Cup Level:

This first group of men are more than likely solid in staying on the World Cup every year. There are only four slots available for most races so that could lead to some interesting decisions should somebody lower down choose to have a breakthrough season, but I anticipate these guys stay put.

Christian Gow (29)

Now without Scott Gow we are left just one Gow brother. Fortunately for Canada Christian Gow is more than up to the task of carrying the Gow flag forward to new glories! Over the last five years Gow has been a very solid biathlete, with the exception of 2019-2020 finishing in the 30-40’s overall each year. He’s also been good for at least 1-2 pretty high finishes each season. Last year, for example, he grabbed 12th in the Sprint and 13th in the Mass Start at the Olympic Games no less.

At this point in his career Gow is still showing minor improvements which is a great thing to see. For the most part he’s been a very good and very fast shooter. I mean look at that plot above and those numbers below. Only one year outside the top 25 in shooting accuracy and last year he did that with an average of under 26 seconds per trip to the range! He also has been holding on to his skiing fairly well as well.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201893.987.890.927.6
2018-201986.987.787.326.3
2019-202083.18081.527.2
2020-202185.689.487.525.4
2021-202291.486.488.926.7

Right now we would say Gow is on the “Simon Eder” pathway. And performing like this can certainly lead to success as we’ve seen with Eder and with Christian Gow. It can also lead to longevity. He’s only 29 so I’ll be really curious if Gow can bring back a little of the speed he had a few years ago. If so a couple of top 10 finishes might not be out of the question this season!

Jules Burnotte (25)

Jules Burnotte, the wild Quebois with the equally wild hair, is the other “solid” member of the Canadian men’s World Cup squad. I’m putting solid in “” there because I don’t think that Jules would agree with that, but that’s because he’s too humble. He really has done enough to earn it at this point. He’s just 25 and last year he was absolutely on the upswing in terms of his performance. Last year included four races all of which either equaled be improved on his career best including finishing 18th in the Mass Start at the Olympic Games. This boosted him to a career best 71st in the end of season overall rankings.

Jules’ most distinctive characteristic as a biathlete is absolutely his height and his wild mane of hair. Now the hair has been shorn away and whether we see that again is anybody’s guess. I’m sure that his performances without it might make him consider keeping it gone at least until he’s done racing. With that and his height though he looked like some sort of wild warrior out of the middle ages. I mean this all as the highest compliment.

Truthfully as a biathlete, Burnotte, like a lot of Canadians, focuses on shooting fast and shooting accurately. The shooting fast part has come. After a shooting time above 30 seconds in his first season he’s been below 28 seconds the last two years. The shooting accurately part is still taking some work with last year’s 75.3% overall shooting percentage a career best. However it is important to note he ended last year with a run of 6 out of his last 10 races at 80% or higher. 3 of the remaining races were at exactly 75% so just one subpar performance for him.

His ski ranks also, while not where he needs them to be to compete for top 10s and podiums, are definitely improving. Last year alone his career average course rank per race improved from about 60th to 45th. That might not sound like a lot but its a solid improvement. The potential and ability is there. This season is about taking that last 10 race run that he had last season and turning it into an entire season. If he’s able do to that it puts him a little lower than Vytautus Strolia position. Strolia finished 25th overall last season so let’s say if things break right and he hits peak form Jules Burnotte is aiming for a finish in the top 30-40s overall

Battling for the World Cup:

Overall the Canadian men are a young group without much experience. This means that there isn’t a ton separating these guys. And with four spots to fill every weekend on the World Cup there is going to be plenty of up and down amongst these guys. The most important thing, as always, is that they go out there and compete every weekend.

Trevor Kiers (25)

Trevor Kiers is just 25 but considering the youth and inexperience from so many Canadian men on the biathlon team right now he’s practically a grizzled veteran. He has one full season on the World Cup under his belt and three at least partial years on the IBU Cup before that. So then with all of that experience why does he end up here? Simply put he doesn’t have the results to necessarily justify being an every weekend automatic selection on the World Cup. In his one consistent World Cup year he only qualified for 1 pursuit race which dramatically limits the racing experience not to mention data points we can use. For that reason we’re going to focus on his IBU Cup racing.

His IBU Cup racing has been inconsistent but last season he did score two career bests of 27th and 29th.Looking at his statistics he is, even if mildly, on the rise. He ended last season with the highest collection of ski ranks of his career. Now that might have been related to the lack of Russians and Belarussians, but he was showing small improvements before that as well.

His shooting though remains a serious concern. His best overall year of shooting ended with a total shooting percentage of 74.5%, which was the year he spent primarily on the World Cup. Last year though he had a handful of terrible shooting performances on the World Cup shooting 55%, 70%, and 50% before going back to the IBU Cup. He finished last season on the IBU Cup shooting 67.5% for the season. He’s still shooting fast but there is no good in shooting sub 26 seconds when you aren’t hitting anything.

Trevor Kiers is definitely at risk of being bypassed by some of the younger men on this list. It isn’t even that he needs to get dramatically faster on the skis, he just needs to start knocking down targets. We’ll watch that and if he’s able to consistently able to get at least 70% down then we’ll start thinking about his skiing.

Adam Runnalls (24)

Likely one of the beneficiaries of Kiers’ struggles last season and demotion to the IBU Cup was Runnalls. It allowed him a more secure opportunity to gain experience and success of his own on the World Cup level. And success he showed with all five of his top five finishes coming last season including his career best 30th in the Pursuit at the Olympic Games.

Runnalls last season had just enough improvement in his skiing to make that happen. He had six of his top nine course time ranks of his career last season. Considering he had just 11 total races last season that isn’t too bad! Overall his ski end of year ski rank moved up from 90th to 77th. Not a massive leap but certainly a solid climb and puts him in position for further climb this season.

Shooting meanwhile remains a bit hit or miss. He had more sub-75% shooting races last season even with fewer overall races. His average ended up just two points below 2020-2021 but the effects seemed greater on his performances. His shooting times remained unaffected though, remaining one of the fastest shooters in the game, under 27 seconds average shooting time almost every race.

Going back to look at IBU Cup and Juniors data Runnalls has always shot around 75%. His skiing ranks were quite a bit higher. So overall definitely signs that we should expect continued improvement. However, can the shooting improve, that, as it is for so many Canadian men, is the question.

Zachary Connelly (21)

I’ll be honest, initially I was going to put Connelly in the group below. Then he was selected for the first World Cup group and I really couldn’t do that anymore! So let’s take a look at why he was selected.

Looking at Zach Connelly’s there is absolutely no evidence as to why he would have been picked. All I can speculate is he has shown extremely well this summer and at the test events. Last season was his first full season on the IBU Cup and even that was just six races. In those six races, all in the first trimester of the season, his best finish was 57th. He came back to the Juniors to race at Worlds and went 57, 45, and 40th.

Breaking down his statistics he does appear to have ski potential. While the results weren’t there he had top 16 ski rank each race at Junior Worlds. His IBU Cup course ranks were 40th to 70th so nothing spectacular there. His shooting meanwhile was not great. His best race ever he shot 80%. His career average is <65%. There just isn’t a lot there to love.

So why did they choose Zachary Connelly? In this case the numbers just can’t tell the story. We’re going to have to trust the coaches on this one. As for what I see as his potential as a biathlete. Well of all of the young Canadian men he has some of the best ski potential. And he’s still just 21 years old. So if he can get his shooting accuracy to take a major leap, and I mean major leap, then he has potential to be very good. All eyes will be on young Zach Connelly on the range.

Matthew Strum (26)

Matthew Strum is practically an old man by Canadian biathlon standards. He’s 26 and has 4 full seasons of IBU Cup racing to his name. So is he a fully baked cake or can we expect more from him? Let’s take a look.

Last season was undoubtedly his best season to date. He has five of the top seven finishes of his career including his first IBU Cup top 10. He ended up finishing 1 point ahead of Runnalls for the top Canadian point earner on the IBU Cup level last season. He was powered by good and improving shooting. He never shot below 70% and ended the year averaging just a hair under 80% on the season. It was his ski performance that took the major leap last year. His average course rank went up nearly 30 places which allowed him to earn those top finishes this season.

So what’s on top for Matthew Strum? Well hopefully we see continued ski improvement. I’m not sure where it will land him overall in the IBU Cup standings but if he can pair that along with shooting in the low to mid 80’s he should see consistent starts at the very least.

Juniors:

This last bunch we have mostly Juniors data to go off of. And some of them not even much of that. However, a couple of names to keep an eye on here…

Logan Pletz (22)

Logan Pletz is young even by Canadian biathlon terms. He does however have two seasons of Junior racing and last year on the IBU Cup to look at. It comes out to about 16 total races of data to go off of. Not a lot, but not nothing. The picture we see though is still incomplete.

On the IBU Cup last year he was able to make seven total starts including the European Championships. His best overall finish was 25th but generally he was further down around the 50-80s range. Not surprisingly he didn’t have phenomenal ski ranks, generally falling lower than 55th in course time rank. Shooting, while inconsistent, averaged to about 80% with a relatively fast shooting time of about 29 seconds.

Juniors though were a little bit better. He only has nine Juniors races to look at, and Juniors races can be difficult to really get a clean picture from as well. But from those races he had a career best 14th last season at Worlds in the Sprint. Still though shooting remained around 80% and again with a shooting time around 29 seconds.

I’m not sure what to take of this to be totally honest. However it does compare favorably to the men above him on this list at a similar age. So with further growth and more racing he has the potential and the ability to find himself a solid member of the World Cup team going forward.

Xavier Gilbert (17)

Earning his first career IBU Cup race to start the year is Xavier Gilbert. He just has 3 total races of Juniors level racing to look at, but here’s what we see. His finishes were 24th, 53rd, and 54th. His ski ranks were actually pretty good as far as Canadian men are concerned with two course times ranks in the top 27. His shooting in those races was not too good though. He shot 85% to lead off and finished 24th that race. The last two races were 40% and 60% though and you can see the drop off in finish. Hopefully he’s gotten the shooting straightened out!

Daniel Gilfillan (17)

Last but not least on this list is Daniel Gilfillan. We have only 3 total solo races all Junior to look at to try to figure out what kind of athlete he is. All were at Youth Worlds last season where he went 40th, 34th, and 29th. Ski times appeared to be the top half of the pack and shooting was averaged to mid 80’s. To get this start I have to imagine he’s continued to show well at internal test events and throughout the summer and fall. Congratulations to Daniel and hopefully he spends lots of time on the IBU Cup!

Women:

Quota: 4 athletes to start

Notable Retirements: Megan Bankes, Sarah Beaudry

World Cup:

Like the men, the Canadian women are limited to just four spots for most races. That doesn’t mean just four athletes are worthy, it is just the limits that they have. So who should we expect to see on a regular basis? Well, like the men, the women also had 2 notable retirements and may have a large number of athletes cycling through the top level this season.

Emma Lunder (31)

One woman who is absolutely locked in on the World Cup roster is Emma Lunder. In fact it would take an earthquake to get her off of this squad. She’s been a solid member of Biathlon Canada’s World Cup squad since 2016 and that won’t change this year.

Lunder, like her counterpart Christian Gow, is known for fast and accurate shooting. While the shooting accuracy may not always be there, the fast shooting certainly is. All four of the last four seasons she has had an average shooting time of under 28 seconds which has put her top 15 every year. The accuracy has gone up and down but she’s been consistently low to mid 80’s. The key for her is more races in the mid/upper 80s than the other way around. Ski ranks have all been solid if not spectacular. She isn’t going to blow anybody away on the skis but with course time ranks consistently 40-70 she isn’t a total tortoise either.

Prone %Standing %Total %Shooting Time
2017-201888848632.2
2018-201974.374.374.325.5
2019-202078.685.782.126.8
2020-202184.187.785.927.6
2021-202283.181.582.326

Our hopes for Lunder are to revisit her 2020-2021 season. That year she shot nearly 86% overall and ended the year ranked 57th in overall skiing. Along with her usual fast shooting that put her 26th overall. She garnered 7 of her 13 best finishes. Although her career best of 7th actually came last year. Regardless, that’s the goal. Good if not great skiing, combined with solid and fast shooting. She just did it two years ago, she can definitely do it again. Aim for the top 30!

World Cup Contenders

Yep that’s it. I don’t know that anybody else is locked in at that level. Had Megan Bankes or Sarah Beaudry returned maybe they would have been. However, we’re officially calling the next three spots entirely up for grabs. Here’s who is fighting for them:

Nadia Moder (25)

Similar to the men’s team, the ages of the women’s team take a quick jump backward after the top. Moser received a decent amount of World Cup exposure in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, but last year only ran three races in total. I don’t know how many were paying attention, but Moser started the year out on the World Cup team and had a career best 27th in the opening race followed by two more solid races. Then she broke her ankle and missed the rest of the season. It really appeared like she was on the verge of a breakout campaign and we just never got to see it. She’s been training like crazy though and is ready for more.

What can we expect from Moser is really difficult to tell. It really all depends on how well healed that fracture is. If it is fully back to form and Moser was able to have a full summer of good training then I think she has potential for a very very good year. If not then it might be a year of working through the rust and the cobwebs.

It is only three races out of a much longer career, but to start the season Moser had three straight races shooting 90% AND had the best course time rank of her World Cup career. In seasons prior she had been averaging course time ranks generally in the 50s down to the 80s. Last year she came out of the gate with two in the top 55.

Looking at her overall profile Moser’s maximum potential profiles as possibly a top 30-40 overall biathlete. In order to regain that trajectory she’s going to have to be fully recovered from this ankle AND have been able to regain the lost training. Now she’s done it once she should be able to do it again. It’s not always that easy though. Similarly she’s going to need to continue to show improvements with the rifle. A career average of shooting around 80%, where she has been, won’t get her there. That average needs to bump up at least 5%. But we have seen it even for a short window. I’m probably too optimistic but why not?

Emily Dickson (25)

At 25, Dickson joins Moser as the fellow “old lady” of the bunch. However she has much less racing experience on the World Cup so less data for us to break down. She actually has a bit of a strange racing history. She had extensive IBU Cup racing in 2018-2019, minimal racing in 2019-2020 with racing split between IBU and World Cup (maybe an injury I am not aware of?), no racing in the COVID year of 2020-2021, and last year back to IBU Cup. Regardless, she’s starting out the year back at the World Cup level so lets see what we’re working with!

With most of her racing thus far being on the IBU Cup, that’s where we are going to focus our attention. Looking back you can see last year was the closest she has been to full time racing in almost two seasons and even that wasn’t full time. But actually turned out really well! She had just one finish outside the top 40 on the IBU Cup. Not as much success on the World Cup but we aren’t focused on that yet.

She did this mostly by relying on her skiing. Prior to last year she had never had a course time rank better than 28th. Last year every race was better than 25th. Her shooting showed potential as well, ending up a hair better than her career average in the upper 70s.

When looking at her World Cup stats they weren’t quite as rosey. Course time ranks in the 60-80s, shooting percentge back at career average. So what should we expect this season from Dickson? I’m going to choose to be optimistic. I like the feel around this year’s Canadian team. I think we see a slight bump in shooting along with course time ranks more in the 50s this season. Overall that might now sound like much but qualifying for a few Pursuit races and an overall World Cup finish in the 60-70s would be a solid season.

Jenna Sherrington (20)

Like with Zachary Connelly above, at age 20 I was about to put Jenna Sherrington in the Juniors category. Then the coaches selected her for the World Cup team and I really couldn’t justify that anymore! She has 18 career races, 6 IBU Cup and 12 Juniors that we have at our disposal to try to solve the Sherrington puzzle.

First looking at her youth events, every race has been at Youth or Junior Worlds. Her finshes at Juniors last year were 45, 30, and 31. Her ski ranks have been decent, very consistently finishing with top 35 or better ski ranks. Her shooting has been average with a shooting percentage coming in at or a little below 80%. Her shooting times though were good for the Juniors level ending last season shooting sub 32 seconds.

Her six IBU races don’t shed much light but her course time ranks were 70s-80s and she shot very well into the mid/upper 80s. That was even with shooting faster than usual with several average shooting times in the upper 20s.

Truth be told I don’t know what to expect from Sherrington. Nothing about this stands out as an obvious reason for why she got the immediate call up to the World Cup. I’m going to guess she’s been performing very well in test events and training. She may struggle right off the bat on the World Cup level. I think the goal here is to get her some further experience. She’ll also probably spend more time on the IBU Cup level as well. Continued all around growth is the name of the game here.

Benita Peiffer (22)

Benita Peiffer made her World Cup debut last season with just six total races. She didn’t have a ton of success and she has many more Juniors level races so we’re going to focus our attention on the Juniors data for now. Interesting note for Peiffer, she didn’t have any racing at all from 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 so there is a little hole in her profile at the moment.

As a Junior Peiffer has had some up and down finishes. She has a career best of 11th set back in 2018 but for most of her career has been finishing primarily between the 20s and 50s. She hasn’t shown any particular distinguishing characteristics. Ski ranks have been solid if not great. However if you remove one really bad day from 2020 you can see a general upward trend over the last two seasons with all course times in the top 40. Shooting has been up and down but averages around 80% for her entire career. This is even as she dropped 10 seconds of shooting time over the last 5 years.

With that massive gap in her resume it is hard to really make any definitive statements about where her career is heading. She did have those aforementioned starts on the World Cup last year and did not have a ton of success, scoring a high finish of 84th. Her World Cup lack of success appears to have been affected by both poor skiing ranking no higher than 75th in course time rank and shooting that never broke 80% for any race. For Peiffer to see long term success she’s going to need to see success and improvement all around.

Gillian Gowling (23)

Gowling is another Canadian athlete with a large hole in her racing history. For Gowling though she raced Juniors 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 before missing two seasons and returning on the IBU Cup last year. Gowling started last season a little slowly but definitely picked up momentum as the year came to a close.

She started the season unable ot break the top 50 for nearly the first 2/3 of the season. After the Olympics though she was top 50 in every race. Now you might credit that to the Russians and Belarussians being excluded but that alone would not account for her going from consistent finishes in the 70s and 80s all the way to two 33rd place finishes in sprints. Looking at her stats to try to figure it out, her ski form really came around towards the close of the season. You could see it building a little before the peak but after the Olympics she went to a new level. Course time rankings went from 60s and 70s up to the 40s. And if you lok at the trendline it wasn’t just an overnight thing, this was coming. Meanwhile her shooting stayed right around the 75% mark.

It’s just one year, and even less than that of good racing, but I’m relatively high on Gowling’s chances. That late season peak wasn’t a fluke. The numbers showed that it was coming and she made it happen. I really want to see what she can do with another season like this. If we can see ski ranks more consistently in the 40s (or higher) and a boost to that shooting percentage (not unreasonable as she shot in the 80s as a Junior), she could definitely continue to score career bests throughout the season. She may even get the call up to the World Cup.

Pascale Paradis (20)

And finally we come to my absolute favorite of the bunch. I was so excited about her that I did her write up in the men’s section before I realized my error. Pascale Paradis has been racing for at least the last 5 years on the Juniors and local levels and has shown what I believe is the most impressive Juniors resume by any young Canadian as of yet.

Why am I so excited? She has three top 15’s including a career best of 6th on the Juniors levels. She has shown sky high ski potential, almost always in the top 10 course time of any race she has been in. And her shooting time has dropped bit by bit the last few years. If she can just get her shooting accuracy to come around she could be a potential force on the World Cup.

I certainly would never project her to be an Olympic medalist as that’s crazy talk. However I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that she could be the best Canadian biathlete since Myriam Bedard. No other Canadian man or woman has shown this level of ski potential at this young age. It could be a huge amount of of pressure but I cannot wait to see what she can do on the IBU Cup his season.

Juniors:

This last group of women we just don’t know a ton about. They all have three races or left to their career thus far. So we won’t make any judgements. I’m just putting them out here to be seen for now.

Desiree Paradis (18)

The younger Paradis, Desiree follows in the large shadow of her older sister. She made her debut last year at Youth Worlds and had respectable finishes of 37, 29, and 38. Nothing spectacular and nothing atrocious. Same can be said of her statistics which were fine across the board. It is hard not to compare her to her sister but we’ll resist for now. We’ll have more data after this season to know if Canada has a powerhouse duo to rely on in the future!

Anna Marino (18)

Anna Marino has just the three races at Youth Worlds last year for us to take a look at. She finished 48th, 33rd, and 32nd in those races. It’s really difficult to make conclusions from this tiny sample size. Her skiing was middle of the road with course ranks of 52, 41, and 43. Her shooting percentage 70, 80, and 75%. For Marino it really is about getting more experience and seeing what she can do.

Morira Green (17)

Young Moira Green has just 3 races under her belt, all at Youth Worlds last season. She placed 32nd, 51st, and 33 in those three races. It’s hard to get much sense of an athlete form three races but she seems decently fast with course time ranks of 14, 35, and 30. Shooting was the shaky bit with only one day shooting above 70%. Being so young and only three races though its absolutely impossible to get any conclusions from that. Hopefully she has a great year!

Janice Grundahl

Making her debut! I have no idea what to expect!

One thought on “Canada Team Preview

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