HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
A pair of young Yukon biathletes are defying the odds at the Canada Winter Games this week in Halifax.
Competing in a division occupied by athletes years older, some from national teams, two 16-year-old biathletes are capturing top-20 results.
“We found it pretty exciting because they are competing against the world junior team, and the youth world team,” said Yukon biathlon head coach Judy Hartling. “They are competing in an age bracket where it’s 18- to 21-year-olds – they are skiing two age brackets up. So to be in the top 20, it’s pretty exciting when they are just 16-years-old.”
Because they are so much younger than the competition, Erin Oliver-Beebe and Jennifer Curtis, who make up Yukon’s female contingent at the Games, are both eligible for the next Winter Games in four years.
So far, with a couple races to go, Curtis has raised some eyebrows. Often playing second fiddle to Oliver-Beebe, Curtis outpaced her teammate for a 12th place finish in the 12.5-kilometre individual race on Sunday to open the Games and then took 20th in the 7.5-kilometre sprint on Tuesday.
Two stops at the range in the 12.5-kilometre race helped lop off time for Curtis when she went five-for-five at the targets.
“I was pretty excited. I was really happy with some of my shooting and the skiing was nice and fast, and it was a really fun course,” said Curtis. “It’s a good feeling when you come off the range and you don’t have to worry about time being added because you cleared all your targets.”
Oliver-Beebe also cracked the top-20 with 15th in the 7.5-kilometre on Tuesday and 19th in the 12.5 individual race.
“I guess I’m happy,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I think the race I did (on Tuesday) was a lot better. I felt better racing.”
Improving with each trip to the range – missing four, then three, then two, then one – Yukon’s Jeremy Johnson took 35th in the 15-kilometre individual race then 39th in the 10-kilometre sprint on Tuesday in the men’s division.
“Although he’s older – he’s 20 – he’s been in Africa for the last two years and returned in December,” said Hartling. “So his time to train was very limited, but we’re still really pleased with the results he’s getting.”
While Johnson is back competing on Wednesday in a 12.5 kilometre race, Curtis and Oliver-Beebe will be back in action as well, skiing and shooting in a 10-kilometre pursuit.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Oliver-Beebe. “I’m usually better at the longer distances, so 10-kilometres is a good distance for me.”
Yukon’s biathletes will be on the trails for a 3×6-kilometre relay event on Friday. However, unable to fill a full team, the Yukoners will be teaming up with NWT biathletes for the event and will not be included in the official standings.
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