When Whistler biathlete Benita Peiffer showed up to the team selection races in Canmore a few weeks ago she had one goal in mind… to make the IBU Cup circuit, one step below the World Cup.
Peiffer, who grew up cross country skiing but only switched over to biathlon full-time last year, had the IBU Cup outlined in her yearly goals as the next step she needed to take in her development. So when she got the email telling her she had skipped the IBU and had made the World Cup team, it was a complete shock to the 21-year-old.
“I’m pretty over the moon to have qualified for the World Cup this year. I definitely didn’t see it coming. When I went over where I wanted my season to go for this season, I was definitely looking to be on the IBU Cup but it’s awesome to be on the World Cup,” said Peiffer.
“I kind of knew that if I pulled everything together that World Cup could be an option, but I wasn’t necessarily stoked after every race. I pulled together certain aspects but not everything at once, but I’m really excited to dip my toes into the water and see how it goes and get a feel for that level of competition.”
While Peiffer viewed the World Cup as a more attainable goal for next season versus this season, her coach Julia Ystgaard wasn’t shocked at all to hear the news that Peiffer will be competing at the World Cup level.
“[I was] probably a bit less surprised than her,” she said. “I have seen the potential since this summer and just seeing how she works and trains as an athlete and her focus and dedication as well as the actual performance she’s showing. I thought if she qualified for the IBU Cup we would be super stoked about that and that would be a great win, and the fact that she qualified for the World Cup is just even a bigger win.”
Now that her yearly goals have been thrown out of whack (in a good way), Peiffer said she’s going to have to re-evaluate the upcoming season and identify some new goals as she’s competing against seasoned athletes.
And while she is the youngest one on her team by a few years, and making the Olympics in her first year on the World Cup circuit might be a bit of a tall task, she’s already surprised herself once this year so she won’t rule out any possibility.
“I’m super excited that I’ve qualified for the World Cup this year knowing that it’s an Olympic year, knowing that if maybe I’m exceeding my goals, or what I had planned out for this season, there might be something else in store for me,” she said.
“I think if I pull everything together, that’s definitely a goal of mine. We’ll see how things go, but I think even just moving forward, if it’s not 2022, I’m definitely looking forward to 2026 and years to come on the World Cup. Whether I am there or not, I’m still growing as an athlete. I’m looking forward to being a little bit older in the sport and being able to navigate it a little bit better and feel a bit more confident in the field.”
Mostly though, Peiffer is just excited to have the opportunity to learn from the more-experienced biathletes and learn what it takes to handle the pressure that comes with competing on the sport’s highest stage.
But whatever Peiffer sets as her goals for the coming years on the World Cup circuit, Ystgaard believes the sky is the limit for the biathlete and nothing is out of reach as long as she keeps the same work ethic.
“I think that she can achieve anything that she wants to achieve. I don’t want to say that she can have this and this position at the World Cup or anything, but as long she works towards her goals and has fun with it, I think she will be successful. She has that natural ability to put down the work that is required for it,” said Ystgaard.
Peiffer has recently made the trip out to Sweden for the first stops on the circuit before heading over to France later in December.