Nadia Moser’s sights focused on Olympics

Whitehorse’s Nadia Moser recently completed her second full season as a member of Team Canada on the International Biathlon Union’s (IBU) World Cup circuit, taking part in a total of 21 competitions spread across six venues.

Her best team result came in the mixed relay on Feb. 10, in Pokljuka, Slovenia, at the World Championships when she and Emma Lunder teamed with Christian and Scott Gow to finish eighth overall.

Individually, Moser competed in 12 competitions with her best result being 52nd in the pursuit, also held in Pokljuka, on Feb. 14.

On paper, that’s a step backwards. Moser cracked the top 40 once and twice more the top 50 during the 2019-20 season.

But this was no ordinary year and it’s hard to fault the 23-year-old for something of a sophomore slump given nothing about the training season, travel, competing or even scheduling was ever going to be normal while the entire world tried desperately to deal with a pandemic.

Or it would be, if Moser wasn’t so quick to put those ideas to rest.

“The IBU did a really good job of all the COVID protocols, we had COVID tests every four days and I felt really safe,” Moser told Yukon Sports Report earlier this spring. “Racing, other than having no fans, wasn’t really too different. … I don’t think we were affected too badly in a negative way, in my opinion. I’m super grateful to have been able to even have the season, but I am still very disappointed with how it went.”

Asked to expound on what led to that disappointment, she explained she just wasn’t able to have a good skiing day and a good shooting day on the same day.

“Some days I had good ski days, and some days I had good shooting days, but generally I coudl never put them both together at the same time,” Moser said. “Hopefully next year I improve everything and then actually have a good day, all at once. (Actually,) more than one day.”

While sports like golf and baseball also require participants to perform multiple disparate skills in a given competition, the stark contrast between skiing and shooting is substantially larger than the difference between driving and putting or hitting and fielding.

Biathlon is rabbits and rocks, as the metaphor goes.

Moser says there’s a lot of variance in her shooting, and that improving that part of things may be just what she needs to do to start improving her results.

“Sometimes it’s really difficult and sometimes it’s really easy,” Moser said with a chuckle, in somewhat of a family-friendly paraphrasing of Gennaro Gattuso’s famous statement on the duality of sport.

Before going any further, it’s important to remember one very important thing – Moser is very, very good at what she does.

She is, after all, competing against the best in the world week in and week out.

But as they say, there are levels to this.

“It’s really a big mental game. If you’re thinking about the wrong things, then you will make it a lot harder on yourself,” Moser said. “But it’s just a process. The skiing, you focus on different parts of the technique, and it should be the same for shooting. But for some reason a lot of people – including me – just struggle with it, making it a way bigger deal than it needs to be. So that makes it harder because we think it’s harder.”

While other competitors had to adjust to empty grandstands this winter, Moser said her experience on the IBU Cup – the second tier of international competition – meant the quiet didn’t throw her off like it may have some of her more experienced peers.

“I’ve only done one World Cup season where there were fans at most of the events,” Moser said. “Before that I was on IBU Cup and there aren’t really any fans there, so it’s way calmer an atmosphere when there aren’t a bunch of rowdy people.”

She said lots of top athletes miss the fans, and that she missed the extra motivation the roar of the crowd can give.

“It can give you some extra motivation. If no one else is cheering for you, there will always be fans cheering,” she said. “Without that, in some ways it does make it a bit more difficult on the skiing, but I don’t mind it. It would be nice to see fans again next season.”

While the FIS was forced to shuffle some events around on its World Cup schedules, forcing venues to hold competitions at less than ideal points in the winter, the IBU’s rescheduling largely just doubled up events at each locale and managed to keep the order fairly typical.

“A lot of athletes, including myself, quite enjoyed having two weeks at each venue because you have more time to settle in and you’re not always packing up every single week,” Moser said. “It was a little more relaxing that way.”

Training gets back underway this month for Team Canada, and thoughts of last season’s disappointment are replaced with a singular focus on the Olympics.

“The beginning of May, we’ll start team training again and … I’ll do whatever I need to do to improve and be much better than this (past season) hopefully,” Moser said. “Then the Olympics is the goal.”

Qualification for Team Canada is a complicated thing, like with most sports, but the short version is Moser will need strong results in the first half of next season to book a spot in Beijing.

While Moser is open about what didn’t work this winter, she also ended her season with an example of what she expects of herself more consistently next year.

“I had a good shooting race my last race of the year,” Moser said about the relay in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. “My skiing was really bad but I almost hit all of my targets – I missed the last one because I got too excited. It’s just like, ‘OK, finally I know things can come together’ so that makes me excited to continue.”

With another year of experience under her belt, Moser will no doubt push for an Olympics spot next winter, especially if her introspection and thoughtfulness pay dividends this training season.

Photo credit: Steffen Prößdorf/CC BY-SA 4.0