Training for gold

Katie Brickman
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Five local biathletes headed to Winter Games

The scarves were wound tightly across their faces, but were still covered in frost, as were their eyelashes.

Nathan Kuntz, Talia Park and Danny Francis (L-R) are just three of the athletes from the Biathlon Club in Moose Jaw that will be participating in the Saskatchewan Winter Games in Prince Albert later this month. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

Despite the temperature near minus-15 with an added wind from the north making it feel closer to minus-30, the Moose Jaw Biathlon club members were still keen on practicing last Thursday.

That practice three times a day has paid off for five members for the club as they were selected to participate in the Saskatchewan Winter Games being held in Prince Albert later this month.

“This is the most we’ve sent,” said Don Park, coach for the Biathlon Club. “The goal this year was to send as many kids as possible.”

Talia Park is going to her second Winter Games, competing this time in the junior division. Others competing in the junior division are Austin Ellis, Dayan Perry and Nathan Kuntz. In the juvenile category, Kayde Shymke and Danny Francis are competing.

“Danny is a first time skier, but the rest of them started with us last year,” said Park. “They have a little more experience, which is good.”

The club held their first official practice on Sept. 3, a little earlier than normal in order to prepare them for the Winter Games. They also compete throughout the province at Sask Cup races once a month.

The biathlon competition gets underway from Feb. 19 to 22 at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club. The sport has two components — shooting and skiing.

There are three types of competition. There is the sprint event, where athletes will ski the one kilometre (km) loop three times and shoot twice. A mass start event where they ski four times around the one km loop and shoot three times. Also male and female relay teams will compete. There will be nine teams of four athletes with a mass start. Each skier will go around the one km loop three times and each athlete will shoot twice.

“In the Sask Games, there are little shorter loops because they are restricted, as they are shooting inside the city limits, like here,” explained Park. “In normal biathlon, they would ski further distances and shoot further distances.”

The junior level is for those born in 1998, 1999 and 2000 whereas the juvenile division is for those born in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

“I think the competition level is going to be quite higher than we are used to,” said Park. “Biathlon has grown a lot and there are a lot of competitors out there.”

As the coach, Park continues to push the Scott Perras story to the kids. The Regina born biathlete will be representing Canada is his first Olympic Games.

“He skied on the same fields that these guys are skiing on right now,” said Park. “It is the same cold, windy trails in Regina and North Battleford, so they can see that it is possible.”

Park would like the club to bring home some medals from the Winter Games, but also wants them to enjoy the experience.

“We take other races really serious, but this one, there is so much more to it than just wins,” said Park. “They stay in the athletes’ village; it is about bonding with the other sports. It is like a mini Olympics.”

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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