REGINA -- A Saskatchewan biathlete heading to the world stage, after the pandemic forced him to sit on the sidelines a year ago.

Regina’s Logan Pletz was one of four Canadians selected to compete at the World Junior Men’s Biathlon Championships in Obertilliach, Austria. 

“I’m really excited to race against the best from the other countries,” Pletz said before leaving for Europe. 

The 20-year-old was going to compete at an International Biathlon Cup event a year ago, but he learned it was cancelled just hours before he was supposed to board a plane. 

Pletz said countries are sending their best to compete at the event this year because nobody has competed in such a long time. 

“It’s definitely going to be a really challenging field considering this is the first junior event that the [International Biathlon Union] has held in probably over a year,” Pletz said. 

Fans will not be permitted to watch the races in Austria, something that could effect Pletz’s adrenaline. 

“Definitely gives you a bit of energy when you’re on your last lap and dying and there’s a bunch of people cheering you on. So it is definitely is going to be a bit different,” Pletz said. 

The last time Pletz raced internationally was in 2019, which was his first time representing Canada. He placed 19th out of more than 100 competitors at the Youth World Championships in Slovakia. Pletz was the first biathlete from Saskatchewan to ever race in the event. 

He has shifted most of his training to Whistler since then, one of Canada’s national biathlon training centres. 

“I’ve definitely noticed improvements in even just my mental approach to long training sessions, hard training sessions,” Pletz said. 

To select the junior national team, Biathlon Canada held separate trials in Canmore and Whistler in January. Pletz came first in three of the four events. In November, he competed at the Senior Men’s World Cup trials in Canmore. He placed first amongst juniors in three of the four races. 

“That definitely I think helped put my name on the map,” Pletz admitted. 

Doug Sylvester, the head coach for Saskatchewan’s provincial biathlon program, coached Pletz before his move to Whistler and was supportive of his move to B.C.

“It’s nice to see when a kid that works hard from Saskatchewan can rise to the top levels of any sport,” Sylvester said. “[Training in Whistler] gives him somebody to get feedback against, whether he’s going to slow or not trying hard enough or his shooting is too slow. That’s a lot tougher to get when you’re training by yourself in Saskatchewan.” 

Sylvester said he believes Pletz will begin qualifying for World Cup events in the Senior Men’s category in two to three years. This event in Austria will provide a good benchmark. 

“It will be a good way for him to judge how he’s doing relative to the top competitors in the world,” Sylvester said. 

Pletz will be racing in the 15 km individual race, the relay with three other teammates and the 10k m sprint race. 

The World Junior Men’s Biathlon Championships begin Saturday.