Martin Fourcade wins biathlon sprint in Canmore
Macx Davies top Canadian in 25th
The Canadian team kicked off the BMW World Cup biathlon on home snow Thursday at the Canmore Nordic Centre with the men's sprint.
With 230 athletes representing 26 countries, the World Cup is the largest biathlon event at the Nordic Centre since the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Current World Cup leader Martin Fourcade of France hit all 10 targets and blitzed the 10-kilometre course in a time of 23 minutes 51 seconds for the win.
Russia's Anton Shipulin and Germany's Simon Schepp also shot clean rounds for silver and bronze respectively. Shipulin was 15.7 seconds back of Fourcade and Schepp 18.7 behind the Frenchman.
"I shot clean and skied fast enough to be in front of these two good guys," Fourcade said. "I'm also really satisfied to compete in North America. It's been five years since we've come to North America for biathlon competition."
Davies, 22, was the top Canadian finishing 25th in a field of 88 men. He was also 10-for-10 in shooting and crossed the line 1:45 back of Fourcade.
Racing continues Friday with the women's sprint followed by Saturday's mass start races for both genders and Sunday's mixed relays.
Calgary's Nathan Smith, the first Canadian man to win a world championship biathlon medal last year with silver, was 31st on Thursday. He skied a penalty lap for missing one target.
"I knew it was going to be a tough ski day on the first lap," Smith said. "My legs were kind of heavy, which is unfortunate. I always hope to have good legs in races that are really important."
Nerves on home soil
At 1,400 metres, the Canmore Nordic Centre is one of the highest altitudes on the World Cup. The Canadian mens' hearts may have beat a little faster Thursday as it marked the first time they've raced a World Cup at home in their lives.
"These people actually know who I am," Davies said. "You don't really get that over in Europe."
Two-time Olympian Brendan Green of Hay River, N.W.T., works with a sport psychologist to develop mental cues that help him transition from skiing to shooting.
"In my head I'm thinking 'black, centre, trigger' little cues like that," Green explained. "Little things like that take your mind off 'I'm breathing too hard or my heart is beating too fast.'
"A lot of people are under the impression we try to slow our breathing and drop our heart rate, but to be competitive, you have to shoot really fast on the range as well. You're actually practising to do it with a high heart rate. They're actually still beating really hard."
Calgary's Scott Gow says a brief pause towards the bottom of his exhale is the sweet spot for shooting accuracy.
"It's more or less breathe in as deep as you can, breathe out three-quarters, two thirds," he explained. "I hold my breath for just a split section to find aim and then you squeeze the trigger."
Gow placed 34th, Green 40th and Gow's brother Christian was 61st.
The competition continues Friday at 1 p.m. ET with the women's sprint live on CBCSports.ca.
With files from Biathlon Canada