Trevor Kiers reached the highest level of biathlon racing earlier this month.
In his second year as a member of the Canadian Senior National Biathlon Team, he competed in his first World Cup race in Oberhof, Germany in early January. That level of achievement was only a dream for the 23-year-old when he was still a Cadet practicing his shooting skills off his back porch in Sprucedale.
It wasn’t an easy road to the World Cup series—and has ultimately been years in the making. However, there were a few bumps that Kiers had hoped to steer clear of on the way there this season.
“At the beginning of every season, we have a set of races we call trials. Trials is how we rank people to determine where [they] race. This year, the top five men and women would race the World Cup,” Kiers says, explaining that the usual racing structure was different due to pandemic race cancellations.
Kiers says he didn’t have a great first trials race, finishing fourth, but won the second race, ensuring he’d have a spot on the team to race the World Cup.
“Then I found out I broke a rule, and was given a five-minute penalty. Those five minutes took me from winning the race, to ninth, [which ranked] me sixth overall.” And suddenly his World Cup dreams were dashed.
That didn’t deter Kiers from his goal, though. He kept up his training, determined to be ready for the challenge. He didn’t have to wait long. “I was given the call on Dec. 22 and asked how soon I could leave. I had to get all my ducks in a row quickly.”
Although he trains daily for biathlon in Canmore, he supports himself by working as a supervisor at the Canadian Tire store there. Luckily, he was given the time off just after Christmas in order to join the team in Obertilliach, Austria for ten days of training before the World Cup races began.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup race series is a season-long competition, this year taking place in seven countries, starting in Finland in November and ending in Sweden in March.
In his first World Cup race in Oberhof on Jan. 8, Kiers placed 89th out of 105 in the Men’s 10km Sprint, and then improved his standing on Jan. 13 in the Men’s 10km Sprint, placing 76th.
“My first race was far from perfect,” Kiers says.
“I had ice built up in my rear sight. It was snowing, [and] the snow was sticking to my rifle. It was impossible to see when I laid down. I spent quite a bit of time trying to remove the ice by blowing through the peep, but it was seemingly doing nothing,” he explains. “I was so distracted, I ended up missing two targets. I was way behind where I should have been. Luckily, the coaches understood and gave me another chance.”
That chance led Kiers to be part of the Men’s Relay team on Jan. 15 in Oberhof, where they placed eighth overall out of 24 teams. “This was big for us. Not the best result Canada has ever achieved, but it’s one of the best in the last four years,” he says enthusiastically. “I had a great day, and was fighting with Finland, Ukraine, Russia and Sweden pretty closely in my own leg of the race. We got a pretty awesome result!”
Kiers has continued with positive results this weekend, as the World Cup moved to Antholz-Anterselva, Italy, where he placed 68th in the 20km Men’s Individual race, and the Men’s relay team again placed a respectable ninth place.
Unlike most successful athletes in their chosen sport, Kiers didn’t begin at a very young age. A truly home-grown athlete, he describes his early formative biathlon and cross-country skiing experience as a mix of local instructors helping him out.
“I started skiing at age 14. I was in Cadets, and they got me into the sport. I then started racing high school [cross-country skiing] races,” Kiers says. “I trained on my own, as Almaguin [Highlands Secondary School] didn’t really have a team. I would go to Arrowhead on the weekend and ski around. John Cowan was quick to invite me to the [Huntsville High School] practices on Sundays. I worked with HHS, and then raced them during the season. It was great to have them include me with open arms.
“I only ever raced [biathlon] in Cadets until I was 17. My last year in Cadets, I went on to the National Championships,” he says, which took place in Valcartier, Que. “On the bus ride home, I was told by the coaches that I should consider racing civilian, a term that Cadets would use to talk about regular racing. A lot of the successful athletes at the Cadet National Championships were racing on the civilian side, and that’s where it all began.”
It took a while for Kiers to get set up with what he needed to compete in biathlon, as it is an expensive sport. A typical biathlon rifle costs $5,000, “which [neither] I, nor my parents had,” says Kiers.
Sponsorship and hard work were essential for Kiers. “After high school, I worked at Arrowhead for the winter, which allowed me to work, and once my shift was over, I could get out for some training. It was a great position to be in.”
After some successful racing as a member of the Timmins Biathlon Club, Kiers eventually was selected to train at the Biathlon Alberta Training Centre in Canmore in 2016. “We were essentially the Junior National Team, [although] such a team didn’t officially exist with Biathlon Canada. The team was run in the same fashion as the national team: two training sessions a day, two intensities a week, and we used a lot of the same support system as the National Team.”
Kiers raced on the Junior Circuit and competed successfully in the Junior World Championships in 2018/2019, before being named to the Senior National Team in 2019.
Making it to the World Cup may have been what Kiers always dreamed of, but he won’t stop there. He’s already setting his sights higher for the future.
“I want to hit the top 40,” he says, noting that that it would require a near perfect race—but he feels it is possible. “This would help me secure federal funding, and likely secure a spot on the Olympic Team. The obvious goal for the next year is to make that Olympic team.” He is determined in this direction. “I’ve got about 12 months to be selected, so all of my effort will be put towards making sure that happens.”
Just thinking about the Olympics as a possibility makes him proud to see where he’s come from.
“The fact that a local kid from Sprucedale, Ontario is fighting for an Olympic spot is just super inspiring to me. I want to put us on the map!”
Even though Kiers has been in Canmore for four years now, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He is quick to name some of his local supports that have assisted him on this successful journey. “I would like to give a shout out to The SportLab, who’ve been with me from the beginning,” Kiers says. “They help me with sport nutrition to ensure that my energy is always maximal.”
He also names Muskoka Millwright and Machining who manufactured a metal biathlon target to use at home when he first started training in Sprucedale. “It is still there, and has had a lot of use!”
Others like Algonquin Outfitters have supported him with gear, and Centre Street Family Dental, “who has been a huge supporter for biathlon in general.”
In the future, Kiers would like to help create ranges in Ontario. “I started the sport by shooting off my back porch because there were no ranges for biathlon anywhere near [me]. I would like to make this sport available to everyone.”
Central Ontario now has three biathlon ranges. The closest training facility is Eagle Lake in Sundridge, while two other ranges have been approved for training, one at Hardwood Ski and Bike in Orillia, and another at Highlands Nordic in Collingwood.
Kiers’ positive outlook radiates his enthusiasm for biathlon. “It’s amazing, and I would like to share the joy that I find in the sport.”
When asked what advice he would give young athletes interested in the sport of biathlon, he talks mainly about the dedication required. “It’s not easy. The amount of grit that you have to put in, the hours, the time, the money, the commitment; it truly is a lot.”
Even so, there is much to gain from the experience, he says. “Look to your peers, your coaches, to your competitors, and ask yourself: what can I learn today? This approach has helped me immensely.”
He adds, humbly, “I am fighting for an Olympic spot, but there is still so much for me to learn.”
Next stop on the IBU World Cup series is the World Championship event at Pokljuka, Slovenia. To watch past or future races of this World Cup series, click here.
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