Gavin Johnston shoots in the prone position at the BC Cup Race

Getting fired up for biathlon

The Vancouver Island Biathlon Club has a new Competitive Youth Race Team this year and it’s getting off to a great start

The Vancouver Island Biathlon Club has a new Competitive Youth Race Team this year and it’s getting off to a great start.

Biathlon is a unique Olympic sport combining the skate technique of cross country skiing with shooting .22 caliber rifles on a 50-meter range, alternating skiing laps, with shooting bouts.  Although not as well known in Canada, it is an extremely popular sport in Europe and Asia.

Two of the Competitive Youth Race Team members, Joe Winkelaar (Comox), and Gavin Johnston (Campbell River), travelled to West Kelowna where the Telemark Ski Club hosted the first Biathlon BC Cup Race on Dec. 17-18.

Lead Competition Coach, Don Johnston, said, “It was a good challenge for the athletes.  They had only been skiing on snow for one week prior to the race.  The conditions were really tough, at -20 C for practice and -16 C for their race times.  These athletes are really working hard as they are skiing and then cool down quickly when shooting.  Despite this, both athletes performed well with both their shooting and skiing.”

Winkelaar, racing in the Sr. Boys category, shoots in both the prone (lying down) position at 45 mm targets and standing at 115 mm targets.

Johnston, in the Jr. Boys category, shoots only in prone.

“With open sites, and a high heart rate, these are not easy targets to hit,” he says.

Last weekend, Jan 14-15, both Winkelaar and Johnston headed to Quesnel, where the Cariboo Ski Club hosted the second Biathlon BC Cup Race of the season.  The conditions were more favourable and the athletes both improved their standings.  On Saturday, Winkelaar placed seventh in his category for the 7.5 km Individual race, with two bouts of prone, and two bouts of standing shooting.  Johnston placed fifth in his 6.0 km Individual race, with three bouts of prone shooting.  In Sunday’s Sprint race, Winkelaar placed sixth in the 6.0 km race with two shooting bouts, and Johnston placed seventh in his 4.5 km race with two shooting bouts.

Next weekend, these athletes will be joined by their teammates and other club members for the third Biathlon BC Cup Race at the Whistler Olympic Park in Callaghan.

On Sunday, March 19, from 12-2 p.m., the club is hosting a Give It A Shot! program for anyone interested in trying out biathlon. check out for registration details for this event or to learn more about the club.