Leo Grandbois was one happy 8-year-old when his mom handed him a rifle to shoot targets. That was 11 years ago at home in Sherbrooke, Que. On Sunday, Grandbois was one happy, but chilly, 19-year-old who won the first biathlon gold medal at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“My mom is German and biathlon is a big winter sport there. She saw an ad for biathlon in the newspaper and that’s why I started the sport,” says Grandbois. “It was the rifle I loved then, but now I love to ski, too.”
Biathlon combines the aerobic fitness of cross-country skiing with the steady hand of target shooting. On a windy and freezing Sunday at River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, Grandbois missed three of 10 targets but his strong skiing led to a 22 second victory margin in the 7.5 km sprint race over Albertan Reid Lovstrom. Andrei Secu of British Columbia was third.
“When I was a kid, I was always stressed out doing big races, but no more,” says Grandbois, whose younger sister Pauline Gerd Grandbois placed 10th in the women’s race. “Biathlon helped me manage the stress in life – now I’m really good at controlling stress.”
While Canada Games can be the pinnacle for athletes in some sports, the 2017 Canadian junior champion hopes his Red Deer experience can propel him toward a career on the World Cup biathlon circuit.
“I have high expectations for Leo,” says Quebec biathlon coach Jean-Philippe Le Guellec. “He’s at the top of our junior athletes, but he’s got competition. At the Canada Games, it’s a good place for him to shine.”
In the women’s 6 km sprint, Calgary women swept the podium for Alberta. Jenna Sherrington (gold), Pascale Paradis (silver) and Naomi Walch bronze, all compete for the Foothills Nordic Ski Club