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Sport school grad Gow dominates biathlon at Canada Games

The Canadian Press

2/18/2011 3:59:20 PM

MARTOCK, N.S. -- Combine years in a national sport school with Olympic facilities and you get biathletes like Albertan Scott Gow, a four-time gold medal winner at the Canada Winter Games.

The 20-year-old and his Alberta teammates have dominated the male biathlon at the competition in Nova Scotia over the past week, sweeping the podium on several occasions.

Gow collected his fourth victory on Friday, skiing the final leg in the three-man relay team.

The member of Canada's development squad came to the Martock Ski Club from the Czech Republic, where he managed a ninth-place finish at the Junior Biathlon World Championships.

"Watching the World Cup guys we have now ... I expect to be hopefully top-15 in international races," he said in an interview.

The racer showed composure Friday after missing two of five shots from the prone position, which forced two penalty laps and forced him to chase Quebec's Vincent Blais.

He caught his rival in the second 2.5-kilometre skiing section and didn't miss any of five shots from the standing position. He then picked up his pace to outsprint Blais in the final 2.5 kilometres.

Gow and his kid brother Christian, also a multiple medal winner at the Games, build endurance for such feats during high-altitude workouts at the Canmore Nordic Club. The facility and its world-class shooting range are the legacy of the Calgary Olympics in 1988.

"Having facilities is a key to a sport flourishing. ... You need those to compete with the best in the world," he said.

Gow, who is now a university student, used to make the 45-minute daily commute to Canmore from Calgary's National Sport School, which arranges biathlete's academic schedules around 30 to 40 hours a week of training and travel.

Cam Hodgson, the principal of the Calgary school, watched from the sidelines on Friday as his former student came back to win.

"For kids competing in biathlon and coming up through the system it's critical they have flexibility in their schooling so they don't have to give up biathlon to maintain their academic standing," he said.

"It's a decision that no kids should have to make. For the sake of sport in Canada we should be giving the kids in Canada a chance to pursue both sport and academics to their full ability."

Hodgson said the school has 36 students at the Canada Winter Games. They had won 18 medals by Friday morning.

Athletes from provinces that build shooting ranges for the Canada Winter Games often show signs of rapid improvement, say coaches.

New Brunswick built a shooting range for biathletes for the 2003 Canada Games and Mike Lushington, the province's head coach, said the junior men's team has moved from seventh to fifth overall in the country.

"When we wrapped up in 2003, we were starting from zero ... (and) currently we're vying for fourth in the boys category. We're feeling very competitive. The legacy has been huge," he said.

But Krzysztof Wierzchoslawski, the father of two New Brunswick biathletes, says there is still an uneven playing field in the country with most sport schools and the best facilities in Alberta and Quebec.

The country as a whole still is far behind Europe in allowing youth opportunities to try a sport, and parents are forced to find thousands of dollars for rifles and other equipment, he said.

"Unfortunately, they (his sons) don't have the opportunity to be in a sport school. There is much less training opportunity for them," he said.

"I think the future of the sport is in popularizing the sport."