Former Sea Cadet reaches Olympic dream

Photo by Guillaume Favre

Photo by Guillaume Favre

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Emma Lunder, a former Sea Cadet, represented Canada in biathlon at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea and describes her experience as hitting a career bullseye.

Fourteen years of training were validated when she marched with the Canadian delegation at the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang Feb. 9.

“It was absolutely incredible to walk into the stadium in a sea of red and white and surrounded by hundreds of Canadian athletes,” said Lunder. “There were so many bright lights and flashbulbs flashing everywhere, and I think it finally hit me at that moment that I was going to be racing for Canada at absolutely the highest level.”

The 26 year old, who also competes on the World Cup Biathlon circuit, says her Olympic dream was sparked after joining the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps (RCSCC) in 2004.

The sport is a major part of the army, sea and air cadet program with yearly regional, provincial and national competitions. It tests a person’s physical endurance through skiing long distances followed by the mental toughness that comes from shooting at a target more than 50 metres away with .22 calibre Long Rifle.

Lunder says the sport was a perfect fit because of the intense physical and mental challenges. 

“Imagine sprinting up and down several flights of stairs before stopping abruptly and trying to thread a needle,” she said of the biathlon experience.  “The accuracy needed to hit a toonie-sized target 50 metres away is not an easy task; the key is to train your body to settle down and your mind to focus right after skiing.”

Staying on target

Canada’s Olympic biathlon team employs sports psychologists to help centre the athletes. Lunder focuses on key words while shooting.

“An example would be saying the word ‘trigger’ in my mind, so that during shooting my thoughts aren’t wondering off, or if I start to hear the hits and misses of other competitors around me,” she explains. “Instead, I’m very focussed on making sure I have a gentle trigger squeeze and follow through for all five of my shots.”

Although she failed to reach the podium in Pyeongchang, she played a role in getting Canada to a 10th place finish in the Women’s 4 x 6 Relay.

“Racing at the Olympics was amazing. The relay is a special race because it gives you a true sense that you are part of something bigger and you are racing for one another,” she said. “On my last lap all I could think about was skiing as fast as I could to gain a few extra seconds for the next competitor, and achieving that was definitely a career highlight for me.”

Extreme winter weather conditions forced the postponement of several skiing events. Conditions improved, but only slightly for the relay race; Lunder and the other competitors were greeted with strong winds, snow, and bitterly cold conditions.

As an individual Olympic competitor, she competed in the Women’s 15 kilometre Individual and 7.5km Sprint where she finished 54th in a field of 87 entrants in both races, and 53rd in the Women’s 10km pursuit in a field of 63. 

“I was disappointed with my individual Olympic races and it was really hard for me to deal with that. I couldn’t fight like I wanted at the most prestigious race weekend of my life,” she said. “I did however leave everything I had on the race course and my shooting was decent, so I am happy about giving my all for the entire two weeks.”

Despite the disappointment of not reaching the Olympic podium, she had several strong performances after Pyeongchang.

On March 10 at a World Cup race in Kontiolahti, Finland, she finished in 43rd place in the Women’s 7.5km Sprint Race out of a field of 96 competitors. Then in her season finale at the Canadian National Biathlon Championships in Charlo, N.B., March 20 to 25, she captured two silver medals and a bronze.

“When I started doing biathlon through cadets, I had absolutely no idea I would get to where I am today,” said Lunder. “The advice I have for others is: Take whatever opportunities you can and go with them for as long as you can, because you never know what might end up happening.”

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