|No Canadian Biathletes At Olympics|
Martine Albert of Rimouski, Que., was Canada's last hope in Friday's women's 10 kilometre pursuit at a World Cup event. She stepped to the starter's line knowing her chances were remote for a required top-16 finish and withdrew from the race after only one kilometre.
Albert's chances were slim to meet the criteria Friday because she had placed 58th in the 7.5 kilometre sprint Thursday. In the pursuit, the racers start in the order of finish of the sprint.
"This is very hard for Martine," said Canadian national team coach Nikolai Koterlitzov of Ottawa. "She worked four years putting so much time and effort into it. She was demoralized by yesterday's (Thursday's result) and knew that it would be almost impossible to get the needed result. Not having an entry for the Games is disappointing because I really believed that Martine could have done it."
Albert had met one of the two required criteria' to make the team but fell short for the second bid. She came close at the World Cup in Slovakia last month when a couple of missed targets in the 15 kilometre event cost her the berth. She has four career top-20 results in World Cup competition.
World Cup leader Magdalena Forsberg of Sweden won the pursuit race in 32 minutes and 30.1 seconds with Olena Zubrilova of the Ukraine second and Liv Grete Poiree of Norway third.
On Wednesday, Canadian champion Robin Clegg of Canmore, was also down to his last opportunity to qualify for the Games, but struggled in the shooting range to place 89th.
"It's devastating to both Martine and Robin to have dedicated the last four years of their lives, at great expense, and not fully meet the incredibly high Canadian Olympic Association criteria standards," said Rick Nickelchok, executive director of Biathlon Canada.
"What makes it even more difficult is that they had met the international (International Biathlon Union) criteria."
However there's been some promising news for the Canadian biathlon team with the development of Maryke Ciaramidaro and Zina Kocher, both of Canmore. Ciaramidaro, last year's European junior champion, was 52nd in the sprint Thursday and climbed to 42nd in the pursuit. She posted three top-20 finishes at the world juniors last year as did Kocher, 65th in her World Cup debut Thursday.
"Maryke and Zina are big hopes for the future," said Koterlitzov. "They'll be very competitive internationally by the time the next Olympics (2006) come around. They have a lot potential and fight very hard in every race."
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