Kocher taking her last shot at Olympics
Zina Kocher has her plans set for the future.
The 30-year-old biathlon star from Red Deer will compete in her third Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February, then begin to look at retiring from the sport.
“I think this will be my last Olympics,” she said during a telephone interview from Canmore.
Then again one never knows. Jeremy Wotherspoon retired from speed skating in 2010, but earlier this year he announced he will try to come back for the Sochi Games.
However, Kocher isn’t receiving any financial help from the federal government and has to raise all the money needed for living and training.
“I needed to finish in the top eight at the World Championships to receive financial support, but I wasn’t near that and didn’t get any (federal) government funding,” she explained. “I have living costs and our team fees are up to $6,500, plus I have other training fees, so it’s expensive.”
So expensive it could cost her close to $30,000.
She hopes to generate a lot of those funds through sponsorship and a fund-raising campaign call Pursu.it, which is an online platform for athletes.
One can contribute to Kocher at www.pursu.it/campaign/zina-kocher.
“It’s a cool idea because it connects people to an athlete’s journey, with every donation over $25 receiving givebacks,” said Kocher.
Depending on the amount of donation, an individual receives e-mail updates from Kocher’s journey to Sochi, postcards, action photos, a day with Zina learning how to ski and shoot, a pair of her racing skis or a night in Canmore.
“People can go to my site and see what they receive for each donation,” said Kocher, who is excited to start her World Cup season, Nov. 22 in Sweden.
She plans on attending three World Cups before returning home for Christmas.
“After Christmas I won’t go back to the World Cup, but train here to be ready as I can for the Games,” she explained.
Kocher’s first Olympics experience was in Turin, Italy in 2006 while she also competed in Vancouver in 2010.
“Turin was very exciting, but it was also different than Vancouver,” she said. “We weren’t in an athletes village in Italy, which took away some of the excitement. In Vancouver we were in the village at Whistler, plus there were a lot more media and of course, with it being at home, the whole country was involved. There was so much energy, it was a great experience.”
Kocher competed in the 15-kilometre individual race, the 7.5km sprint and the relay in both Olympics. Her best finish was a 27th in the individual in Turin. The relay team placed 15th in Vancouver.
There are six events she could compete in Sochi, although the individual, sprint and relay are three she will be in for sure.
“I could be in the pursuit, mass start and mixed relay, but those depend on other finishes,” she explained. “I need to be in the top 60 in the sprint to make the pursuit and top 30 for the mass start and of course the mixed relay is two men and two women, so that’s up to the team.”
Kocher feels she’s in the best shape of her career after recovering from an injury and mononucleosis last year.
“It took about a year for me to regain my strength, plus I lost some confidence,” she said. “But I find this year I’ve regained my strength and training has been going great. I’m where I want to be and I’m taking that into practice.”
Zocher got into biathlon while in high school in Red Deer, but it wasn’t until she moved to Canmore, when she was 17, that she started to believe she could be an Olympian.
“At the beginning it was more recreational than anything, but once I started competing I really got into it. Then after moving to Canmore after high school I started to look at going to the Olympics,” she said.
Kocher and Wotherspoon, if he qualifies, will join skeleton star Mellisa Hollingsworth of Eckville and bobsleigh star Lyndon Rush of Sylvan Lake on the Canadian Olympic team.