The world’s top winter youth athletes wrapped up two weeks of competitions on Wednesday, and two biathletes from Vernon were among them.
Lucas Sadesky and Ethan Algra represented Biathlon Canada and Vernon’s Sovereign Lake Nordic Club at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Laussane, Switzerland, which ran from Jan. 9-22.
The sport involves a combination of skiing and rifle shooting and is popular in Europe – as Sadesky found out first-hand.
“It was really a stressful experience because in Europe there’s 5,000 people at these races and in Canada there’s more like 50,” he said. “So to be able to race in that kind of place with such high-level competition and so many spectators was a really big deal for me.”
Algra finished 36th in the Men’s 12.5 km Individual and 40th in the Sprint – Canada’s top results in both events.
Algra was also a part of Canada’s mixed relay, which placed 18th, as well as the single mixed relay team that placed 11th at the Games.
Sadesky placed 87th in the Individual race and 77th in the 7.5 km Sprint, finishing as Canada’s second highest performer in the events behind Algra.
“I didn’t shoot great,” Sadesky said frankly upon his return home from Switzerland. The 16-year-old had two challenges to contend with on the shooting range: volatile wind, and a crowd of spectators 100 times bigger than he’s accustomed to.
“As you’re coming into the range there’s all these people cheering you on, and you’re trying to focus in on what you need to do like calming your heart rate and your breath,” he said.
“There was some wind that was changing,” he added. “That was a challenge.”
For many years Sadesky was a cross-country skier with a smidgen of shooting experience, but a year ago his coach at Sovereign Lake told him biathlon might be a better opportunity to make the Games.
“He told me they were taking more athletes for biathon than cross-country, and it might be beneficial for me to try to pick up the shooting skills again.”
The Youth Olympic Games are held once every four years, meaning 2020 was Sadesky’s only eligible year. But after getting a taste of the fanfare in Europe he’s looking ahead to his next opportunity to compete abroad.
“Competing internationally was such an amazing experience (and) I would love to go back. World Youths next year would be a great opportunity,” said Sadesky.
“Being out on the course and being cheered on as Canada – people were saying ‘Go Canada’ – that’s a pretty amazing experience.”
Vernon will soon have another hometown biathlete competing internationally. Danica Ariano is heading to Lenzerheide, Switzerland for the Youth World Championships from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2. Ariano trains at the Biathlon Alberta Training Centre in Canmore.