Before joining the Air Cadets 909 Peregrine Squadron biathlon team at age 12, Tekarra Banser had never cross country skied or fired a rifle.
Turns out the West Kelowna native was rather skilled at both disciplines.
“I fell in love with it right away,” Banser said of her introduction to biathlon. “It was something challenging and new and I just dove right into it.”
Five years later, Banser has developed into one of Canada’s best up-and-coming female biathletes.
The Grade 12 student at Mt. Boucherie Secondary will take her talents to Lillehammer, Norway next month where she’ll compete with Canada’s biathlon team at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
It will mark Banser’s first major competition on international soil and the first time wearing her nation’s colours.
“Obviously I’m extremely excited to be representing Canada, I never could have imagined this would ever happen to me,” said Banser, 17. “To get this opportunity is incredible, the chance to wear a maple leaf is a dream come true. It’s a really special honour.”
Banser raced her way on to the national team thanks to her performance last month at the Calforex Cup in Canmore, AB, which also served as Canada’s Youth Olympic trials.
Banser placed second among 12 eligible competitors over three days of racing to secure one of two female berths.
Banser’s star has been on the rise over the last couple of seasons, which included a gold medal with Team B.C. in the relay event at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George.
She also posted fifth- and sixth-place finishes competing against senior athletes at the Canadian national championships last spring in Hinton, AB.
Biathlon B.C. coach Etienne Letondeur, who has been working with Banser for the last three years, said the West Kelowna athlete’s success stems from skill, hard work and an innate will to succeed.
“(Tekarra) is very committed when she sets her mind to something and you saw that with how hard she trained this summer,” Letondeur said of Banser. “She’s really competitive…she likes the competition and never gives up. She likes pushing the limits of training and that just makes her stronger.”
As for competing in her first international event, Letondeur said Banser should reap the benefits for years to come.
“I think really it will be really good exposure,” he said. “All the big nations will be there. It’s going to be probably be a game-changer for her, and maybe bring her more opportunities for future years. Hopefully it will help her with getting sponsorship, too.”
Because she has limited experience with the level of competition she’ll face from her European competitors, Tekarra isn’t certain what to expect and hasn’t set any specific goals for the Youth Olympic Games—other than to perform to the best of her abilities.
“It should benefit me in a few ways, competing against the best in the world, it should show me what I need to do at that level,” she said. “I’ve never raced outside of Canada, so it should be interesting, a great experience.”
Banser will race for Canada in biathlon on Feb. 14, 15 and 17. If she qualifies for the final round, she will compete again on Feb. 21.