CANMORE, Alta. — Canada’s biathlon team gets a rare chance to race at home in a World Cup starting Thursday in Canmore, Alta.
The last World Cup held at the Canmore Nordic Centre in 2016 was the largest biathlon event there since the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The men race a 20k and the women a 15k on Thursday followed by Saturday’s relays and Sunday’s men’s and women’s mass start at the national team’s training centre.
Calgary brothers Scott and Christian Gow competed in their first Winter Olympics a year ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Scott, 28, and Christian, 25, along with Brendan Green and Nathan Smith won Canada’s first men’s relay medal at the world championship with a bronze in 2016.
The Gow brothers spoke to The Canadian Press after a recent training session. The interview was edited and condensed for space:
CP: How did both of you get into biathlon? What’s the origin story?
Christian: “We attended a summer camp at Canada Olympic Park. It was called “Sports Of All Sorts.” Scott and I are two and a half years apart, so in summer camps you’re in a different age group. We did biathlon I think on the same day, but at different times. We found out at home that we both signed up for it. What I remember was, what eight year old doesn’t love shooting guns and stuff?
CP: Describe your brother’s personality.
Scott: “Christian is the nicer, kinder, more caring person. He asks people how they’re doing and he cares how they’re doing. Wait until he tells you what I’m like. Everything is just a joke to me. Well, not everything, but most things.
Christian: “I think in general people say I’m the more sensitive one of the two of us. Scott’s pretty outgoing.”
CP: How competitive are you with each other?
Christian: “Every World Cup has 110 guys we’re racing against, so there’s 108 other guys I’d rather beat than Scott. I’m just as happy for a good race of his as my own. There’s nothing better than when we both do well.”
Scott: “We’re probably more competitive not racing. When we’re playing Xbox, let’s say, I feel way more competitive doing that than racing against him on the track.”
CP: What was it like for you two to compete in your first Olympic Games together? How do you think it would have been different if one of you hadn’t been there?
Scott: “It is special to be able to go to the Olympics and it’s not just Christian or just myself. Both of us get to go and share that experience together. If one of us wasn’t there? If one of us never did biathlon, maybe no big deal. But if one went and the other was watching, it would be harder for sure. You’d feel bad you couldn’t share it. It is nice we didn’t have to worry about that.”
Christian: “My biathlon career, it’s been awesome to share it with Scott the whole time. It’s such a big part of what I do that it would be really weird to not have that.”
CP: Do biathletes name their rifles? If you did, what would it be?
Christian: “I do not. It would be ‘Sharpshooter’ or something hopefully just embodying what I want it to do, which is hit the target.”
Scott: “I never have. Oh man, who knows? It would have to be a girl’s name. I don’t know why.”
CP: Biathlon is a sport of the super-fit. How many calories do you think you burn a day?
Scott: “People ask us that all the time. It’s actually hard to know. We would be close to the 8,000 mark in the summer because that’s when we’re doing the longest, hardest days of intensity workouts. In the winter, it’s counterintuitive to a lot of people, but it’s tapered more. You’re doing a lot of racing, but the training load is less. Average day, we probably burn two to three thousand calories.”
CP: How many boxes or bags of pasta are in your kitchen cupboards right now?
Christian: “Oh, man. Probably five.”
Scott: “I get the big box and when I’m halfway through, I just buy a new one to make sure I don’t run out.”
CP: Describe each other’s seasons so far.
Scott: “Oooh, it’s been pretty good I have to say. Shooting has been excellent. He’s made a step up from the year before.”
Christian: “He’s had a bit more of a mixed bag maybe than I have. But what’s cool is we’re at a very similar level and the only real difference so far is I’ve been a bit more consistent specifically in the shooting. On any given day, both of us can be in the top 15 every single race.”
CP: European countries, they’re so into this sport. It’s part of their culture. For North Americans, historically, it’s been a real uphill battle to crack the world’s elite. Do you ever wish you picked a different sport?
Scott: “People ask us after the Olympics,’ oh, did you win a medal?’ I say ‘No, but I had this result which is really good’, but no one gets it. It’s like ‘oh, you didn’t get a medal, so it can’t be that great because we saw so many people on TV win medals and made it look so easy.’ I raced 100 guys and was 14th and that’s not bad, but there is a disconnect. People who are into amateur sport and watch a lot of it, they understand. To the average viewer, if you’re not winning medals, they’re not interested.”
Christian: “The reality is I love what I’m doing so much. While maybe not everyone understands our accomplishments, for us now it’s top 20s, but a few years ago it was top 50s that were exciting. People don’t understand that, but it’s not about what other people understand. I started training year-round when I was 11, 14 years ago and I know how much work I’ve put into this and where I’ve come to and I’m really proud of what I’ve done.”
CP: In biathlon, is there such a thing as home-field?
Christian: “I would say there’s a home-field advantage. You’re more familiar with the track, the range and the wind on that range in particular. You’re eating your own food and not living in a hotel. Now, for us, we actually spend all of our winters in Europe the whole time. We know this venue well, but we don’t race here, ever actually. The last time we did a race here was the World Cup in 2016.”
Scott: “Biathlon is one of those sports where it doesn’t matter how well you know the course or how well you know the range, if the wind isn’t on your side or you have lapses in mental focus and miss a bunch of targets, it’s not going to help you. But you definitely have ‘I know this climb and I know what comes after this and I know how to ski this section. I know if the wind is picking up from whatever direction in the range, I know to correct this much.”’