Justin Brisbane, Rocky Mountain Outlook December 23, 2014

In a sport where Canadians are perennial underdogs, a pair of Westerners are riding high in the saddle, carrying the nation back to respectability on the world stage.

Nathan Smith, with his Clint Eastwood squint and eagle-eye accuracy, is becoming a fixture in the biathlon world cup top-10. The crotch-rocket riding, bow hunting, cat loving cowboy is one of the fastest shooters in the world, and Smith showed top form again finishing ninth in the mass start on Sunday (Dec. 22) in Pokljuka, Slovenia, shooting 18/20. Finishing in 35:47, he was a mere 30 seconds back of Anton Shipulin of Russia.

“I felt really strong skiing in the mass start. It was easy to keep pace with the guys around me and even attack on the last lap,” Smith said. “The toughest part of the race was the last standing.

“I was pretty nervous and it actually made my feel a little dizzy for the very last shot. Unfortunately, I missed it, otherwise I would’ve been in that lead pack that was fighting for the medals.”

Rosanna Crawford’s burning intensity and take-no-prisoners approach to race day has seen her shoot and ski like a woman on the run from the law. Frequently seen on local trails with her pack of German shepherds, Crawford capped off an incredible start to the season with a 12th-place finish in the world cup mass start race on Sunday. She’s only fallen out of the top 16 once this year, and by shooting at an 88 per cent clip, she can taste a podium in the new year.

Only two Canadian women have ever won world cup biathlon medals, but this week, she’s recorded a fourth, fifth, seventh and 12th-place finish on the world stage.

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