Bitter cold throws a wrench in World Cup biathlon in Canmore

Rosanna Crawford in Canmore. Global News

Frigid Alberta temperatures forced the reshuffling and shortening of races at a World Cup biathlon in Canmore, Alta.

Thursday’s men’s and women’s race distances have been trimmed. Weekend races have been moved up a day in hopes of catching a temperature break.

Canmore is hosting a biathlon World Cup for just the second time after a first in 2016, drawing 200 athletes from 24 countries.

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The men’s and women’s relays initially scheduled for Saturday will run Friday when a high of -18 is forecasted.

The men’s and women’s mass starts are now slotted in Saturday, but a projected high of -21 may run up against the International Biathlon Union’s cold-weather policy.

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The men will race 15k instead of 20 and the women 12.5k instead of 15 on Thursday.

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“This is a tentative schedule, which might see further changes depending on the temperatures in the forthcoming days,” race director Borut Nunar said Wednesday in a statement from the IBU.

“Our highest priority is to guarantee the health of our athletes and carry out fair and safe competitions.

“We have cut out the coldest parts of the course and changed the start times for some events to a later hour to have higher temperatures.

“The free Sunday gives us some more flexibility in case the temperatures wouldn’t allow competitions earlier.”

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The IBU says races can’t start if air temperature is colder than -20 “at the coldest part of the site, range or course, 1.5 metres above ground.”

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If temperatures are below -15, wind chill must be considered and the decision to proceed is left with the on-site competition jury, in consultation with the IBU’s medical delegate or competition doctor.

The nordic centre in Canmore was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and is the training centre for Canada’s biathlon and cross-country teams.

This week’s bitter cold curtailed pre-competition training this week and sent many athletes indoors to local gyms, the IBU said on its website.

Calgary brothers Scott and Christian Gow, Jules Burnotte of Sherbrooke, Que., Aidan Millar of Canmore and Brendan Green of Hay River, N.W.T., are in the men’s field Thursday.

Canmore’s Rosanna Crawford, Calgary’s Megan Bankes, Sarah Beaudry of Prince George, B.C., and Emma Lunder of Vernon, B.C., will race the women’s 12.5k later that day.

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