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Biathlon Canada – LILLEHAMMER, Nor.Two of Canada’s rising stars in the sport of biathlon teamed up to finish 13th in the unique single mixed relay format on Wednesday in Lillehammer, Norway.

Calgary’s Ben Churchill, who was the Canadian flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies, and Tekarra Banser clocked a combined time of 44 minutes, 58.4 seconds in the relay event.

“Competing in the single mixed relay was exhilarating to say the least. Starting in a mass start format with 26 other countries made it tougher to focus, but I was able to get into my zone,” said Banser. “Fighting to stay with the pack on the first lap was challenging. The corners were tight and the other athletes were just as aggressive as I was. I ran into a few obstacles throughout my portion of the race, although I kept fighting to the last second and left nothing in the tank.”

Banser handed off to the steady Churchill who has been strong all week – not to mention throughout the year – in domestic racing.

“This was an excellent opportunity for us to try and do some damage among the field in a new event,” said Churchill. “It was a lot of fun to try and pace myself well through both legs, stay warm in the interim, and keep my cool mentally no matter how Tekarra was doing.” 

Designed to be more spectator friendly, the action-packed single mixed format is a shorter version of the mixed team event, sending athletes out on shorter loops. The women start with doing a prone and then standing round of shots between their loops before handing off to the men for their opening leg. Athletes complete the course twice, tagging between each leg.

The penalty loop is 75 metres if athletes don’t hit all targets down after using their spares.

China won the gold medal with a time of 41:35.4. The host Norwegian team was second at 41:35.6, while Russia won the bronze medal in a photo finish over France at 41:50.3.

The 17-year-old Churchill has been leading the charge for the Canadian squad this year at the Nordic venue. Following a 17th place finish in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sprint race, the young Canuck climbed seven spots in the pursuit to finish a season-best 10th. Churchill missed just two shots in his four rounds of shooting on the range to clock a time of 30:59.8 (1+1+0+) in the 10-kilometre pursuit race.

” I went into the pursuit feeling hungry and aiming to improve on my sprint result,” said Churchill. “Taking some lessons from the sprint, I attacked the course more intelligently, pushing harder up the hill each time. Execution in the pursuit was much more put-together, and I was thrilled to notch my first top-10 result in an international competition. Big thanks goes out to our wax technicians and the invaluable behind-the-scenes support from our coach, Luke McGurk, and the rest of the Team Canada Mission Staff!”

Norway’s Sivert Guttrom Bakken missed one shot in each of his four bouts on the range, but still posted a golden pursuit time of 28:10.7.

Canada’s top-ranked junior, Leo Grandbois of Sherbrooke, Que., was 25th in the pursuit at 32:51.4 (1+0+1+3). Grandbois was 22nd in the sprint race earlier in the week.

Calgary’s Gillian Gowling was the top Canadian in the women’s 6-kilometre sprint race. Gowling shot clean to finish 30th. Tekarra Banser was 35th at 21:05.7 (0+2).

Germany’s Juliane Fruehwirt also shot clean to win the women’s sprint with a time of 18:23.5.

Starting time behind the leaders based on the sprint results didn’t put no fear in the Ukraine’s Khrystyna Dmytrenko who blazed a golden trail with a time of 25:12.9 (2+0+0+0) in the women’s 7.5-kilometre pursuit on Monday.

Canada’s Banser remained steady in 35th at 30:56.5 (1+0+2+2), while Gosling dropped to 45th after a tough day on the range where she went 1+1+2+2 for a time of 34:58.2.

Canada’s biathlon squad will hit the start line for the mixed relay on Sunday which will be their final race of the Youth Olympic Games – an experience they will never forget in their continued development into elite biathletes.

“The Youth Olympic Games has been quite special. There is a strong sense of camaraderie between nations. Learn and share activities range wildly in topic and scope: presentations from Olympic and World Champions are regular features, as are some fantastic buffet options and concerts,” added Churchill. “Races have been a very unique experience. Competitions simultaneously feel as though I was at home racing in Canmore, and also extremely strange when I look to the side and see a Russian or Estonian competitor. The organizing committee and volunteers have done an incredible job preparing and transforming the venue every day!”

Biathlon Canada is the governing body for biathlon in the country, and oversees the IBU Cup, World Cup, Canadian Championships, Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, and North American Cups held in Canada. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Mackenzie Investments, iON Worldwide, Kama, Roeckl Sports, Lapua, USANA, and ZiZU Optics – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, Biathlon Canada’s mandate is to provide national level programs for the continuous development of biathlon athletes from the grassroots to the elite level. For more information on Biathlon Canada, please visit us at www.biathloncanada.ca on the Internet.

Complete Results: http://www.lillehammer2016.com/sportresult/