Expect a considerably more relaxed and poised Julia Ransom to be wearing her skis and rifle this year at the World Junior and Youth Biathlon Championships.
The 17-year-old from West Kelowna will leave Sunday for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and will compete as a member of Team Canada at the 2011 event.
Ransom had her first taste of major international competition a year ago at the world youth championships in Torsby, Sweden where she placed 11th in individual, 15th in sprint, 23rd in pursuit and fourth with the Canadian team in the relay event.
What caught Ransom most off guard in 2010 was the hype and importance placed on the sport of biathlon by the European fans and media.
“I feel like I’m going to be a lot more calm this time, I have a better idea of what to expect,” said Ransom, a Grade 12 student at Mt. Boucherie Secondary. “It was more of a professional level event than anything I’d ever seen. People were so happy to see the athletes, you turned on the TV and you could see how huge sports like this and cross country are there. It just blew me away. This time I’ll know what to expect.”
In the Czech Republic, Ransom will compete in the youth women’s category from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 in the 6 km sprint, the 7.5 km pursuit, the 10 km individual and the 3 by 6 km relay.
A year older and with an added season of training, experience and strength, Ransom believes a couple of top-10 finishes is a realistic goal.
The key for Ransom—like all biathletes—is the ability to successfully switch back and forth between the endurance and speed requirements of skiing and the steady-handed calmness of firing a rifle at a target.
“I don’t think you find many sports anywhere that compare to this where you use the speed, power and endurance, then have to make the adjustment right away to being totally still and focused,” she said. “When you’re shooting, you just need to sort of put the blinders on, be steady and take your shots. It’s really the exciting part about the sport, the contrasts you see within it.”
Provincial biathlon coach Rob Swan has been working with Ransom for the past several years and expects the energetic and dedicated 17-year-old will be well prepared for her second world championships.
“Like anything it’s hard to predict what an athlete’s going to do against other athletes, they all have the same goals and they’ve all been working hard,” said Swan, who is a professional endurance coach. “Julia has been training hard, she’s been on a real good long-base program through the summer and it’s starting to pay off. She’s more mature, more experienced, and experience says a lot. There’s a long progression in this sport, but Julia knows what she wants, and she’s headed in the right direction.”
While getting to compete at the worlds in the Czech Republic as a member of Team Canada is the biggest reward for all of Ransom’s hard work, there is an added bonus.
“I’m so excited about the chance to experience a different culture and to meet new people,” said Ransom, who will be joining the Canadian team in Prague this weekend. “My parents have taken me a lot of places in the past and I’ve learned just how important it is to travel, see other cultures and how others live. It’s definitely a nice side to what I do.”
A busy season on the snow continues for Ransom next month when she heads to the Canada Winter Games in Halifax. Then later this winter, the West Kelowna athlete will compete at the Canadian cross country championships, before closing out the season at the national biathlon championships in late March in New Brunswick.
Meanwhile, Ransom tuned up for worlds a pair of top finishes at the NorAm Cup recently in Canmore, an event open to both Canadian and American athletes.
She was second in the youth women’s 6 km sprint and third in the 7.5 km pursuit.
Telemark’s Eric Byram was a two-time winner at the NorAm/Calforex Cup earlier this month in Canmore.
Byram skied and shot his way to first place in the junior men’s 3.75 km, then added a second gold in the junior 6.25 km pursuit.
The Telemark team is on the road to Vanderhoof this weekend for the third and fourth B.C. Cup events of the season.