A historic landmark in the Norwegian consciousness, the Holmenkollenn ski park in Oslo embodies more than a century of legendary Nordic skiing competitions. For one special day in 2016, it also embodied a historic result for Canada’s men’s biathlon relay team, who took home a first ever bronze medal in the 4x7.5km team event behind the Norwegians and Germans at the World Championships.
The four-man crew, comprised of brothers Scott and Christian Gow, Brendan Green and Nathan Smith, is now being recognized for that feat at the upcoming Alberta Sport Awards, hosted by CSI Calgary partner, Alberta Sport Connection, winning the 2016 Team of the Year award.
“It was an amazing day for us,” says team veteran Nathan Smith. “Oslo is the big mecca for Nordic skiing and we were racing in front of huge crowds.” He says that although Norway took the win, it was fun to be in the battle for beating the home team. “The atmosphere around the medal was almost better than the medal,” he jokes.
Smith was tagged for doping control before the end of the race and was forced to watch the end play out for his team from indoors. He says it was nerve-wracking to see the finish but was elated when the team’s anchor skier, Brendan Green, crossed in third for the bronze medal.
For all four team members, it was a very special race and a very special day. “Winning the bronze was kind of unbelievable,” says Scott Gow. “We knew it was possible but it takes all four guys having a perfect race on the same day and we managed to do it at the World Championships.”
“These individuals and teams are Alberta’s best. We’re proud of what they’ve achieved and honoured to recognize them for their outstanding contribution to sport in our province,” says Andrew Ference, Chair of Alberta Sport Connection. “They have reached higher, dug deeper, led by example, and made our sport system better.”
The bronze medal, along with an individual silver won by Smith in 2015, has given the team an element of belief and confidence they didn’t have before. In a sport that is typically dominated by a handful of European countries, breaking through to the podium has help shift the attitude on the team.
“As a team we’ve reached a turning point,” says Gow. “Up until a few years ago, in the back of our minds there was a mental block but once the precedent is set it helps the whole team believe.”
Belief in what’s possible is what fuels the team forward as the next winter Olympics looms large in 2018. The team had its ups and downs during the season following the bronze medal performance, but is looking forward to building on the momentum it provided.
Gow says it’s a fond memory from that year, but with another a whole season completed since then they are looking to improve on it. “This coming season we are focused on our training, getting fitter and faster. The biggest factor is team positivity and confidence in both the relay and individual races,” he says.
Smith is recovered from a lingering mono-like virus that prevented him from competing most of the 2016-17 season. He has started training early this season in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang is 2018. The setback was difficult but Smith says it’s giving him extra motivation to overcome the obstacle.
For now, at least, there’s a chance to revel in the memory of the historic medal once more, before focus returns to the future. Biathlon is a lesser-known sport in Canada and Gow says this award is means a lot to the team. “It’s always really nice to win an award and be recognized,” he says.
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto