Biathletes dominate the Callaghan but the Big Guns are in Pemberton

Typically, I suffer a burst of motivation during an Olympic Games – it usually gets me as far as one lap around the block or a couple of days at the pool before it fades and I revert to form. But hope springs in the shape of biathlon – where athletes are still peaking in their thirties and the stop-go combination off sprinting and shooting seems like it would be well-served by years managing panic-inducing deadlines.

Pemberton-kid and former provincial team biathlete Sydney Van Loon was gracious enough to encourage my delusions when I hustled her and freeskiing legend Dan Treadway up to Pemberton’s shooting range for a Boxing Day shoot-out with Squamish photographer Mark Gribbon.

Having stepped away from competition so she can enjoy University life, Van Loon figures she has time later to get back into the sport at a competitive level. For now, she’s coaching Prince George’s Caledonia Nordic Ski Club team while studying glaciology at Thompson Rivers University.  

When I interviewed her for this Mountain Life story, Van Loon said shooting offers a unique “sense of having everything stopping. You feel full body control. Everything slows down – your lungs, your heart. You’re in the zone.”  The mastery required to go from skiing at full tilt aerobic output to slowing down enough to focus on the target makes biathlon one of the most challenging sports. “I don’t think people realize how much is behind it.”

I probably don’t have that much time to figure it out. At least not if I’m going to learn how to shoot, first.

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