Bullets and bullseyes, shooting test ends biathlon camp
Moira Green was not at all happy with her shooting performance.
It took her 15 rounds to knock down five targets while standing on the range Sunday afternoon at Otway Nordic Centre. That meant she reached her objective of finishing the test without running out of ammunition, with only 20 rounds allotted to each athlete. But it was a few too many misses as far as Green was concerned.
“That was not good, my legs were shaking,” said the 14-year-old Caledonia Nordic Ski Club biathlon team member, after completing the national team test, the final event of a grueling nine-day Biathlon BC summer camp.
“It’s so stressful.”
Drawn by the biathlon facilities at Otway, Green moved to Prince George from Yelllow-knife, N.W.T., a year ago in September with her parents Paul, who works as an engineer, and Miriam, a math teacher at Duchess Park Secondary School.
Paul is the older brother of Brendan Green, one of Canada’s most accomplished male biathletes, who retired from the World Cup team in February. Brendan, 32, is a three-time Olympian from Hay River, N.W.T., who anchored the Canadian men’s relay team to a bronze at the 2016 world championships, the first-ever medal finish in the relay for Canada. He also posted a fifth-place finish in a World Cup sprint in 2015 and placed ninth in the mass start race at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Paul is a former national team biathlete who in 1991 became the first athlete from the Northwest Territories to ever win a Canada Winter Games medal. Miriam also has ski racing in her blood as a former junior national medalist in cross-country.
“I missed out on all the genes,” laughed Moira Green, who spent last winter in Prince George training at what rates as one of the province’s best nordic facilities. She’s now training with the Caledonia club’s senior (15-and-older) biathletes and her dad is now the lead senior coach, replacing Tony Fiala, who will focus more on crosscountry coaching.
Moira said she doesn’t miss trying to battle the elements of winter in her former hometown, which made biathlon practice such an ordeal.
“I’m pretty sure I started when I was 10, but it was hard because it was so cold,” she said.
“A lot of it was dry-firing inside with air rifles, which is not the same. The range and the ski trails here are really nice and people here are really lucky. I was able to shoot more than once a week.”
The second annual camp at Otway drew 25 athletes from various parts of the province, most of whom are now in their third month of training for the upcoming winter biathlon season.
“It was tiring,” said Nicholas Veeken of Prince George, 15, who finished second overall last season on the BC Cup biathlon circuit.
When they weren’t on the shooting range they did weight training, ran up and down hills and went cruising on their roller skis on Willow-cale Road, a long straight road with very little traffic through the Danson industrial area.
“The camp goal was endurance training and technical shooting skill development,” said B.C. provincial team head coach Jessica Blenkarn of Whistler.
“These tests can be an indicator of how the athlete’s shooting development is coming, there’s nothing on the line for these athletes, it’s just practice. Almost every nation in biathlon uses this test as an indicator of performance. We had some good results and I’m pretty happy about that, the kids are focused. Some of them were a bit nervous but they all did a great job.”
Some of the shooting sessions that made up the test were timed and some weren’t. Blenkarn wanted the athletes to focus more on accuracy rather than shooting speed in the 20-20 test. There was a bit of rain to deal with last week but on the whole the weather was ideal for the camp.
“It’s a good time of year to train for shooting because it’s not cold, it’s not snowing and it’s not raining,” said Blenkarn.
Fifteen-year-old Quinn Friesen just finished his soccer season playing as a midfielder for the Prince George Impact under-15 boys team, which wrapped up the season last Sunday at Rotary Soccer Field with a fifth-place 2-2 finish at the provincial B championship. He won a couple B.C. Cup biathlon races last season, competing in only prone shooting bouts. Now that he’s a senior, he has the added difficulty of trying to hit his targets while standing.
“It’s hard,” said Friesen.
“This is my third or fourth year of biathlon and it gets easier day-by-day. I just thought it would be cool to shoot a gun.”
Kira Friesen of Kelowna (no relation) won three medals at the national championships in February and as a result is now on national under-20 team. The 16-year-old is among a group of biathletes which includes locals Veeken, Damian Georgyev and Brynn Witwicki, trying to qualify for the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, Jan. 9-22. Friesen competes for the Telemark Ski Club in Kelowna, the home club of World Cup team member Julia Ransom.
“Julia has been really good for training and helping the club and she’s giving back a lot and I really want to step forward in her steps because she’s a Kelowna girl like I am,” said Friesen.
“I look up to her quite a bit. I’m really hoping to qualify for Youth Olympics but there’s going to be some stiff competition
“This camp has been really fun. You get to know the kids and I know everyone here pretty good. That makes the races more fun because you cheer each other on, on trail.”
Blenkarn coached Caledonia club biathlete Emily Dickson of Burns Lake at the national championships in March. With Crawford and Megan Tandy of Prince George now retired from biathlon, Dickson will move up from the IBU Cup circuit to take a spot on Canada’s World Cup team this year, joining Sarah Beaudry of Prince George, now heading into her third World Cup season.
“Emily had an amazing season and now she’s on the senior team, so I’m really happy for her,” said Blenkarn. “I’m also really happy to see more B.C. athletes on the national team because that really inspires the younger athletes because they know it’s possible.”
Biathletes test their skills at the rifle range, above and below, at Otway Nordic Centre on Sunday morning during a biathlon summer camp.