25 November 2023
For those of us in the UK, biathlon is a sport we only really see on the television during the winter Olympics or other winter sporting competitions. It's great to watch because it’s fast-paced and exhilarating, but have you ever considered giving it a go, or has your child ever asked to try it?
Although it may not seem possible, biathlon is more accessible than you might think, and there is a lot to gain from it. To learn more, here are your FAQs answered.
Biathlon is a winter sport with two distinct sections, cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. Athletes who train and compete in this sport will race around a 15-20 km track, stopping four times for firing sessions. It might seem like a strange sport; however, its origins trace back to military training for the Norwegian army during the 18th century before evolving into a sport at the beginning of the 20th century.
Unfortunately, most of the UK cannot support winter biathlon, except for Scotland. The climate just isn't compatible with the sport, and although there is a range of shooting facilities to help that aspect, it is almost impossible to recreate a cross-country skiing course.
There are, however, many opportunities for your child to practise biathlon in continental Western Europe. Then, if your child is keen and has attended winter camps abroad to train, they can maintain their strength and stamina by running a cross-country route or roller skiing and continuing to refine their marksmanship skills in the UK.
When guns are involved, our first thought as a parent is their safety. However, be assured that in every biathlon club, great lengths are taken to ensure that every aspect of biathlon training is safe. From the beginning, top coaches teach children to use a rifle safely, and they will only shoot when they have the skills to do so and when they reach the age of around 9. Any child younger than this will use a laser rifle.
Absolutely! If your child has a drive for any sport, it's worth pursuing it because whatever they do will lead to new opportunities and a range of skills and life experiences that they would never have if they stayed home. Although it may not be the easiest to make a hobby of, the benefits will outweigh that, and your child will also have a sporting strength that not many others have. You may also find the rest of your family also want to try and end up loving it just as much.
If your child is serious about biathlon and commits to the sport, the skills they will benefit from know no bounds. To begin, their physical fitness will skyrocket, as cross-country, whether running or skiing, is an excellent cardiovascular workout, and their whole bodies will also become very strong. More refined skills include incredible hand-eye coordination, a steady hand and a great understanding of safety and risk-taking.