From March 26 to March 31, Whistler Olympic Park hosted the Canadian Biathlon Championships.
With competitors travelling from all over Canada and the United States, the event also served as the North American Championships. Biathlon is a challenging Olympic sport that combines small bore rifle marksmanship with cross country skiing. Competitors must race a challenging course – reaching speeds of 60 km/h or more – before shooting targets at a distance of 50 metres in the prone and standing position. This unforgiving sport demands everything, yet the excitement and satisfaction brings athletes as young as 9 and up to 90 years old.
Rising to the challenge, a number of athletes from the Vancouver Island Biathlon Club made the journey to compete across all categories. Last year, the club was only able to send one athlete to the Nationals, which took place in Charlo, New Brunswick. With growing enthusiasm, eight athletes managed to qualify for the prestigious event this year!
Warm, sunny conditions made for soft, challenging snow. Skiing on soft snow is like running on a sandy beach as opposed to concrete, with skis giving way under every push and the extra effort making shooting even more difficult. This didn’t stop Joseph Winkelaar from the Comox Valley from hitting all 10 of his targets in the sprint and achieving the best shooting result out of all competitors in his category. Great shooting and consistent ski speed enabled Masters athlete, Michael Akey, to mount the podium in third place. Happily, he wasn’t alone. Glenn Rupertus from Courtenay crushed the competition and finished in first place.
As the week of competition continued, close to 200 competitors continued to put forth their best effort. Spandex gave way to shorts and t-shirts, and Whistler Olympic Park soon resembled a white sand beach.
Several more races followed the sprint: the individual race, the pursuit, and finally the relay. Rupertus continued to shine with an unparalleled performance, continuing to rise to the top to achieve gold in every competition. Could it be that his previous Olympic experience had something to do with this?
Rupertus wasn’t alone in enjoying the festival-like atmosphere in Whistler. Other Vancouver Island athletes aside from the ones listed above included:
• Allison Joyce (Campbell River)
• Gavin Johnston (Campbell River)
• Jonathan Kerr (Comox)
• Philip Douglas (Comox)
• Christoph Dettling (Victoria)
Interested in trying out this unique sport for yourself? Check out The VIBC website at www.vibiathlon.ca or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.