Oliver Beebe ends medal drought at nationals

After missing the bronze by just three seconds in her previous race, Whitehorse's Erin Oliver-Beebe ended the Yukon's long-standing absence from the podium at the national level on Saturday.

After missing the bronze by just three seconds in her previous race, Whitehorse’s Erin Oliver-Beebe ended the Yukon’s long-standing absence from the podium at the national level on Saturday.

Competing at the Canadian Biathlon Championships in Charlo, New Brunswick, Oliver-Beebe won a bronze in the senior girls’ 7.5-kilometre pursuit, the Yukon’s first medal at the nationals since 1997.

“I’m really happy actually,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I went to the nationals not expecting very much and I came away with a medal, so that’s great. I’m super excited to have done that.”

In the pursuit, racers were sent off individually in five-second intervals in the order in which they finished in Thursday’s six-kilometre sprint event. Oliver-Beebe, who was fourth in the sprint was therefore fourth off the start-line, eventually moved up to third after a lot of jumbling of positions.

“The whole time everyone was switching places – I bet there were three of four people in the third position at different times,” said Oliver-Beebe.

Teammate Jennifer Curtis, who finished in ninth on Thursday, thus starting in ninth on Saturday, moved up four spots to take fifth and, like Oliver-Beebe, had her best result at the nationals.

“I was pretty happy with how I did,” said Curtis. “It was my final (individual) race of the season so I really wanted to do well.

“We were all in the same area switching (positions) – I was in third at one point, then I was in sixth – so I don’t think it would have made a whole lot of difference what place I started in.”

The 150-metre penalty loop, which had to be completed for each missed shot at the range, saw a lot of traffic on Saturday. With heavy winds affecting shooters, more than half the field shot 50 per cent or less. (One Quebec athlete missed 17 of 20 shots.)

The two Yukoners were no exception with both hitting exactly half their shots.

“It was very windy out, so everyone had a lot of misses,” said Oliver-Beebe. “Considering the wind, I thought I shot pretty well. There were a few penalty laps.”

“It was really windy, so everyone’s shooting wasn’t too good,” said Curtis. “My shooting was average in comparison to everyone else.”

Curtis and Oliver-Beebe wrapped up the nationals participating in a mixed relay event on Sunday. Short one person, the two teamed up with an NWT skier, Christopher Lirette, making their results unofficial. However, had their time been included, the team would have finished seventh with Curtis and Oliver-Beebe’s times ranking third and fourth respectively for their legs.

“Usually teams have one girl and two guys, but it was unofficial because we had mixed territories,” said Oliver-Beebe.

In their first event in Charlo, the senior girls’ 7.5-kilometre individual race last Wednesday, Oliver-Beebe took fifth and Curtis 12th.

“I really enjoyed the entire week. The trails are beautiful there, it was really fun to ski on them, and there was whole spirit of competition, and all that,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I’m really glad I went.”

Oliver-Beebe and Curtis represented the Yukon at the Canada Winter Games last month in Nova Scotia. The two 16-year-olds were racing up a category in the junior women’s division, but both still took in multiple top-20 results.

Oliver-Beebe also won two gold medals at the Western Canadian Championships in Camrose, Alberta, at the start of the month.

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