Canada will be sending its youngest-ever biathlon team to this year’s Olympic Games in Vancouver.
The high flying group of skiier/shooters is looking to follow in the footsteps of three-time Canadian Olympic medallist Myriam Bedard, who herself at age 23, won a bronze in her first Olympic appearance almost 20 years ago.
Canada’s women’s team will be led by veteran Zina Kocher, who is the only member of the team with previous Olympic experience having finished 17th in the 4×6 kilometre relay at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin.
“The season is going really well so far,” Kocher told the Toronto Sun. “This will be my second Olympics and I definitely want to see myself in the top 15.”
She will be leading a team of young first time Olympians including Megan Imrie, 23, Megan Tandy, 22, and Rosanna Crawford, 21.
Rosanna will be looking to her older sister, Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford, for support in her first Games. Chandra will be in Vancouver looking to defend her gold medal in cross country skiing.
Germany looks to be the clear favourite heading into Vancouver.
Kati Wilhelm, from Thuringia, Germany, won a gold and two silvers in the 2006 Games and is looking to build off a stellar 2009 World Cup season that saw her take home two gold and two silver medals.
Her teammate Magdalena Neuner, is being touted as a serious medal contender despite this being her first Olympics. Since her World Cup debut in 2006 she has already accumulated 16 wins and 29 podium finishes.
On the men’s side, Jean-Phillipe Le Guellec is Canada’s only participant in the individual competitions. At age 24, this will be his second Olympic Games.
His most notable finish was 48th place in the individual event in Torino.
Two-time Olympian Robin Clegg, of Canmore, Alba., will lead a men’s relay team that includes first time Olympians Marc-André Bedard and Brendan Green.
At age 36, five-time Olympic gold medallist Ole Einar Bjøerndalen of Norway, is a heavy favourite to win gold in all of the individual events.
He is coming off an impressive 2009 World Cup campaign that produced four gold medals and still holds the record as the only biathlete to win every individual event at an Olympic Games.
Bjøerndalen did so by winning four gold medals in Salt Lake City in 2002.
American’s Jeremy Teela, from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tim Burke, from New York, are also believed to be heavy contenders in both the individual and team relay events.
Both have experience at the highest level of competition. This will be Teela’s third Olympics and Burke’s second.
“We’re a team that for sure has a fair amount of experience,” Burke told the Associated Press.