Kocher lands on podium at IBU event in Canmore

Red Deer biathlete Zina Kocher blazed through the field en route to a silver-medal finish in the women’s sprint event of the IBU Cup 7 competition during the weekend. Kocher, 32, shot 9/10 and clocked a time of 20:16.5 around the 7.5 km track to grab her first international podium finish since 2007.

CANMORE — Red Deer biathlete Zina Kocher blazed through the field en route to a silver-medal finish in the women’s sprint event of the IBU Cup 7 competition during the weekend.

Kocher, 32, shot 9/10 and clocked a time of 20:16.5 around the 7.5 km track to grab her first international podium finish since 2007.

“It feels amazing. I have tears. I’ve had to work all year to finally get this, and I finally put it all together,” Kocher said.

Karoline Horchler of Germany won her second straight gold medal in Canmore, shooting clean and clocking a time of 19:58.7.

Marine Bolliet of France finished third.

Struggling through the toughest year of her biathlon career, where the Red Deer native was left off of Canada’s world cup and world championship team, Kocher made a statement with the best result of her season. Disappointed with Saturday’s race, where she missed four targets and finished 19th, she wanted to perform in front of her friends and family.

“There is definitely a huge fire inside of me that says ‘get it together for God’s sake,’ ” Kocher said.

“Knowing the accomplishments I’ve had in the past helped me. I really just wanted to enjoy the fact I’m racing at home.”

Coach Richard Boruta spoke briefly with Kocher before Sunday’s race, and asked her to break it down into three intervals. The strategy worked remarkably well.

Kocher broke onto the Canadian scene as a junior in 2001, and won her first European Cup race in 2003. The three-time Olympian has been a staple on the Canadian scene for 15 years, and seen the program change substantially in that time.

“It was so exciting for me as an older athlete finishing my career to see all these young athletes coming up that are so strong,” said Kocher. “I didn’t have that when I started. Today was extra special to have so many of my former teammates, friends and family around. Tonight will be a good celebration.”