Masters Biathlon for the Keen Newbie Downunder.
By Mark Elliott.
Australia is known for many things; surfing, beaches, Crocodile Dundee and Kangaroos. One thing it’s not known for though is winter sports. Most overseas visitors aren’t even aware that there are ski resorts in Australia. And most Australians aren’t aware of what Biathlon is, let alone that there is a strong and enthusiastic group competing in this wide brown land.
From watching the Winter Olympics on TV I’ve always been fascinated by Biathlon but I assumed it would require a flight to Finland. I was surprised to stumble across it in Sydney and before I knew it, I was invited to the local rifle range to learn target shooting.
Now, I’m 41 years old and I like to keep fit but I’m certainly no athlete. That doesn’t matter because there are a number of Masters (over 35 year olds) who are just as keen as anyone. For me, Biathlon has been my main motivation to keep fit.
Gen and Phil from the Australian Biathlon Association’s NSW Branch have been very active in organising training events including;
- Roller skiing every Sunday through Centennial Park with an Olympian as our coach
- Coaching at the rifle range with Jill Colebourn, an up and coming biathlete
- A Spring Biathlon (running and shooting)
- Coaching from Luca, an Italian coach with World Cup experience
Every year there is a 1 week training camp at Mt Hotham organised by Biathlon Australia. I was too late for this year’s event but I’m planning on going in 2016. By all accounts it is supposed to be great and attracts people from as far afield as Rockhampton, Queensland.
Last week was my first ever Biathlon competition. It’s fair to say Day 1 was a disaster. Anything that I could have done wrong, I did. I couldn’t get my rifle zeroed, I forgot to reload the magazines, missed every target etc. However I put it down to experience and Grant the Association President stayed back to get the rifle and I sorted. The next day at the Sprint event it was a different story. I hit 1 out 5 targets for prone (not great) and 2 out of 5 for standing (which is really good by my standards). I was really satisfied and I’m already training for next year’s event.
That weekend I met other Biathletes from across Australia as well as competitors from Russia, Italy and Canada.
So if you have ever been interested in Biathlon, or you enjoying Nordic skiing, or shooting, or you are just looking for a challenge, just remember that you don’t need to move to Finland. There is a great biathlon community in the land of Oz.
Mark Elliott, Downunder