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Rifles & Skis: the Biathlon Experience
Trying out a #biathlon for the public in #Whistler, #BritishColumbia, I discovered that I'm quite a good shot! What is a biathlon? It's literally #shooting rifles while cross-country #skiing. It's certainly a more #active way to practise marksmanship.
I’m not sure if this is strange, having grown up in a country town where most people seemed to spend their weekends fishing and hunting, but I had never even held a gun until this day. I had never held one, I had never shot one and I most definitely had never practised my marksmanship. So, you can imagine my surprise when I shot 10 out of 10 targets on my very first try at the Whistler Olympic Park.
What is a Biathlon?
I’ll be the first to admit–had no idea what a Biathlon actually was before trying it for myself, and may never have known otherwise. The Biathlon event at the Winter Olympics includes a combination of two activities; cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship.
Shooting on skis? Yup.
In competition, biathlon is performed using skate technique and 22 calibre rifles. Athletes skate (on skis) a short ski loop, fire five rounds at the biathlon target and head off again around the ski loop.
Shooting on skis? Yup
There are various formats but the ultimate goal is to ski fast and shoot straight. The sport is wildly popular in many areas of the world and particularly in central Europe. Who knew?
Biathlon for the Public
Things went a little differently for us non-athletes. We had fun messing about on the cross-country skis, practising our balance and speed. In a separate area, and without skis on our feet, we were introduced to the rifles. After our first round of practise shots (5/5 for me!) we decided to hold our very old Olympic Biathlon–only instead of skiing the enormous loop, we would simply run the length of two pylons and compete in two teams.
I was the first member of my team up. I ran through the snow as fast as my heavy boots would allow and rounded the first pylon and quickly heading back in the opposite direction to the far pylon. I did the same on the other side and raced back to the rifle mat. It felt like I was in some sort of slow motion Bond scene as I dove onto the mat, grabbed for my rifle and quickly lined the scope with my target.
Biathlon at Whistler Olympic Park
TreeTrek Tour in Whistler
Private ski Lesson in Whistler
Click, boom, reset. Click, boom, reset. Repeat.
My opponent only had two targets down by the time I hopped up, having once again hit five out of five only in mere seconds. I raced over to my team and slapped the hand of the next person. The race continued. I felt such a rush of adrenaline from all of the excitement and giddily cheered on my team mates for the duration of the race.
I certainly don’t plan to take up an interest in guns any time soon, but I really enjoyed the controlled setting and marksmanship of an Olympic sport. It’s something that I wouldn’t mind doing again; perhaps against friends, considering it brought out such a competitive side of me.
I really enjoyed the controlled setting and marksmanship of an Olympic sport
Here are some of my favourite shots of the Biathlon Experience (including a few from Tom Ryan):