Sans skis, biathletes are on the mark at BC Winter Games

Cold temperatures and heaps of snow didn't keep biathletes away from McArthur Island on Saturday morning.

Athletes under the age of 15 gathered to shoot laser rifles and run laps around snowy soccer fields as part of the BC Winter Games biathlon events being held in Kamloops.

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Biathlon is usually competed on skis, but because the race was arranged long before the city's heavy snowfall, the course was set up to be done on foot (based on the paltry 11 centimetres of snow the city normally receives in February, much less than the 45 centimetres that has fallen on the River City through Feb. 23).

Depending on the event, athletes run laps around a 600- or 800-metre track and stop to shoot on each lap.

In Saturday's opening race, the boys' mass start biathlon, William Tang of Abbotsford (Fraser Valley) finished first with a time of 11:51.8.

Tang, 15, said he takes the event pretty seriously.

"I like competing -- the rush you get competing with people from all over the place," he said.

Tang also took first place in Friday's sprint event.

Cody Vanwerkhoven of (North West took second with a time of 12:15.9 and Nicholas Veeken of Cariboo-North East took third with a time of 12:18.9.

On the girls side, Brynn Witwicki, representing Cariboo-North East, finished first with a time of 13:25.7, followed by Natasha Podgurny of Kootenays at 13:44.3 and Taylor Fulton from Vancouver-Coastal with a time of 13:56.7.

Kamloops' sole competitor was 13-year-old Tate Solomonson, who finished 12th in the mass start event with a time of 15:47.7.

"I'm pretty happy with that," Solomonson told KTW.

Solomonson's father Corey said his son is at a bit of a disadvantage since Kamloops is without a biathlon club or much organization around the sport.

Without a dedicated biathlon course available, Solomonson trains for the sport by shooting weekly with the Kamloops Target Sports Association, with both .22 calibre and air rifles, and staying fit by playing soccer and doing sprints between lamp posts.

What Solomonson does have, however, is a chance to compete in biathlon as an air cadet. He's gone as far as the provincial level of that competition, with the help of his coach Chase Jervis, who encouraged him to get into the sport.

"He got me really pumped," Solomonson said. "Chase comes up and starts talking to all the newbies. He said biathlon is the most physically demanding activity in cadets. I said, 'Let's go.'"

It's not just his coach who keeps him going. Solomonson's parents are also helping him stay on track. Solomonson was once unhappy with his results, but his parents reminded him that he's competing at the provincial level and he should look at his results in that context. He said he sees things clearer now.

"I was pretty closed-minded last year, but now that my eyes are open, I'm a bit happier with my success," he said. "My parents opened my eyes a little."

In his future, Solomonson has two goals in mind. First, he wants to continue competing in biathlon and make it to the national level competing with the air cadets and, maybe one day, the Olympics.

He also wants to get his pilot's licence.

© Kamloops This Week



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