First ever Yukon biathlete heading to junior worlds

Whitehorse's Erin Oliver-Beebe skied and shot her way into the Yukon history books over the weekend. Competing with fellow Yukoners, Jennifer Curtis and Ryan Burlingame...

Whitehorse’s Erin Oliver-Beebe skied and shot her way into the Yukon history books over the weekend.

Competing with fellow Yukoners, Jennifer Curtis and Ryan Burlingame, at the North American Cup 4, the Junior and Youth 2012 Selection Trials in Val Cartier, Quebec, Oliver-Beebe captured one of four spots on the youth women’s national team.

When she competes at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships next month in Kontiolahti, Finland, she will be the first Yukon biathlete to reach that level of competition.

“I’m super excited. I didn’t know I would do that this year – my goal was to do that next year,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I’m super stoked for it.”

Oliver-Beebe, who trains at the Canmore Nordic Ski Club in Alberta, opened the trials taking fourth in the 7.5-kilometre mass start race. She finished seventh in the 7.5-kilometre sprint and placed second in the 10-kilometre individual pursuit.

Those results put her in fourth overall for youth women and in the last available spot.

Though the 17-year-old made a podium spot to end the trials, the opening race was her favourite. Not only did Oliver-Beebe shoot clean in her first two times at the range, it proved to her that a spot on the team was within her grasp.

“That was my best race out of the three of them,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I cleaned the first two prones and I’ve never actually done that before in a race. My standing was good as well and it made my race.

“I went into the trials not knowing where I would place because last year I was so far behind everybody. This year I did that (first) race and was like, ‘Yeah, I might actually have a chance.’”

Not only will it be Oliver-Beebe’s first time competing in Europe, it’ll be her first time going to Europe.

“It’s going to be a huge, new experience for me,” said Oliver-Beebe. “There is going to be 100 people racing in my category supposedly and I have never done a race that big.”

Curtis not only had her competition to deal with at the trials, but the remnants of an illness. But her convalescence could be seen in her improved results as the trials went on.

“I was pretty happy because I was quite sick going into it,” said Curtis. “I got more energy as the week went by, which also explains why my placings went up and up. So I just wanted to go in and focus on the little things and get some good experience from the races.”

Curtis went from 11th in the first race, moved up into eighth in the second and finished with seventh in the 10-kilometre pursuit, putting her in eighth overall.

“I wasn’t expecting too much. I just wanted to go in to get the little things out, which I’m really happy with,” said the 17-year-old. “The first race I had some of the best shooting that I’ve had while racing.”

Burlingame, who competes on Canada’s only varsity biathlon team at the University of Alberta in Augustana, produced consistent results at the trials for the junior men division. After finishing 10th to start, Burlingame came seventh in the sprint, seventh in the pursuit for seventh overall.

Last season Oliver-Beebe became the first Yukoner to win a medal at the Canadian Biathlon Championships since 1997, snagging bronze in the senior girls’ 7.5-kilometre pursuit. She also won two gold medals at the 2011 Western Canadian Championships in Camrose, Alta.

Oliver-Beebe and Curtis represented the Yukon at the Canada Winter Games a year ago in Nova Scotia. Years younger than most of their competition, which included national team members, the two posted top-20 results in all three races. The two were so much younger than the rest of the field they are eligible to compete in the same division at the next Canada Winter Games in three years.

Earlier this month Oliver-Beebe and Burlingame raced at the second North American Cup/Calforex Cup of the season in Canmore, Alta. Oliver-Beebe won two silvers while Burlingame won a bronze.

At the first North American Cup of the season in December, Curtis won a bronze and Oliver-Beebe won silver in the youth women division.

“I’m just really happy for Erin,” said Curtis of Oliver-Beebe making the team. “I know she’s worked really hard for this and she deserves it.”

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