Ryan Elden’s final biathlon junior championships will be a memorable one, but not for his results on the track.
The Quesnel athlete competed for Team Canada at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Junior World Championships in Austria. The competition took place from February 27 to March 6.
“It was pretty good,” Elden said after arriving back in Canada. “The team had some good results, I did not have the most amazing results, but it’s been a tough season for me so I wasn’t expecting anything incredible.”
The championships were held in a bubble environment, similar to North American sports, to stop the spread of COVID-19. Elden said he was tested before his flights to Austria and before entering the bubble. The pandemic also hampered Elden’s ability to prepare for high pressure events.
“We were able to do some races within our own team leading up to the competitions, and to qualify,” he said. “It wasn’t like we were sitting on our butts the whole winter, but I definitely didn’t go over there in the best condition that I could have been in.”
Practising shooting while replicating the pressures of competition proved challenging for Elden.
“I knew I wasn’t on my best form, so I tried to focus on more process goals,” he said. “Managing my nerves properly, focusing on trying to shoot well, focusing on technical points while we’re skiing, and not getting too hung up on those results.”
Elden represented Canada at junior events in 2018 in Estonia and 2020 in Switzerland. His experiences in Austria will mostly be remembered through the lens of the pandemic.
“The stadium was amazing, the trails were fantastic, the weather was really nice to us, but we didn’t get to do the sightseeing and exploring we normally would be able to do,” he said.
Elden will move on to what he called the “big boy” categories of biathlon for the 2022 season. He’s aiming to qualify to race in the IBU cup. To do that he’ll need to perform well in qualifying events later this year.
“We’re feeling pretty motivated still despite COVID,” he said. “Our coach is totally on board with taking things to the next level, being a lot more intense in training, more professional about it.”
Elden expects to compete in those qualifying events in November of 2021.
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