Biathlon is a terrific sport that combines the endurance of cross country skiing with the precision of target shooting. Biathlon has its origins with Scandinavian hunters and has become a very popular Olympic sport.
What is a biathlon?
In a biathlon, racers ski a loop of 1 to 5 km (depending on age and total race distance) then come into the shooting range where they fire 5 rounds at 5 targets at 50m. Skiers must slow their breathing and focus on the targets to be effective at firing cleanly on target. Each miss incurs a penalty in either added time or extra distance to ski (a penalty lap). The biathlete then skis the next leg of the race, shoots again, skis the next leg... until the race distance is covered.
The rifle is a 22 calibre target rifle modified for biathlon use with the addition of a backpack-style carrying harness, snow covers for the firing end of the rifle, and magazine (ammunition) holders. While the youth skiers leave their rifle at the firing range, advanced or older biathletes carry the rifle on their backs, backpack style, while skiing the loop; when they enter the firing range, they have to efficiently remove their rifle, and get into position.
While the Saskatoon Nordic Ski Club does not have an active Biathlon section, Biathlon Saskatchewan has a training and racing program for beginners to elite participants. Anyone interested in trying biathlon is encouraged to attend a training session or a race.