Biathlon is one of the world's most compelling sports. Combining cross-country skiing - the ultimate strength endurance sport - with marksmanship, all can be made or lost on the shooting range. It requires incredible skill, as well as physical and mental strength. Originally practiced by border guards patrolling Europe's snowy and mountainous frontiers, it is now a hugely popular spectator sport. In Germany it is second only to football in TV audiences.
Biathlon in the UK, like cross-country skiing, was traditionally dominated by the military. But in recent years, skiers such as Scott Dixon from Scotland and Holly Rees-Lay from the Thames Valley have been emerging from local clubs to take on the country's best military biathletes. Last year a laser biathlon race series began in England, combining running with shooting. And in other parts of Europe, notably Norway and Germany, city centre 'Summer Biathlon' competitions have been run on rollerskis with real biathlon rifles, with the world's best winter biathletes taking part. So overall, interest and participation has grown considerably.
Marc Walker represented GB in biathlon from 1999 to 2008 in IBU and World Cup races, and won no fewer than 19 British Championship gold medals between 2002 and 2010. His record as a coach is equally impressive - his proteges include Adele Walker (his wife), Nerys Jones, Simon Allanson and Pete Beyer. Now retired from the Army, he is based in North West England, but remains involved in coaching biathlon for various Army teams. Marc will be leading the shooting coaching, and will be supported by our team with the rollerski coaching.
The laser rifles do not use bullets but a completely eye-safe laser (of a similar kind to lasers used in barcode readers). The 'beam' is picked up by a receiver placed 10m away. The rifles are very similar in look and feel to the .22 rifles used in real biathlon, and have been developed specifically for biathlon training. The system has been used in the Biathlon World Team Challenge in Germany.
Despite the rifles being totally safe, the course will emphasise safety, and the equipment will be used as if they are real rifles with live ammunition.
Half the course will be on rollerskis, in the skating technique. Our rollerskis are made by leading manufacturers, who also supply them to the leading biathlon teams of the world. All biathletes train on rollerskis in the Summer, and many race either in rollerski or Summer biathlon (roller skiing plus shooting) races in the Summer months.
No previous experience of either skiing or shooting is required. All you need to have is a reasonable standard of fitness and balance. We will normally split the groups based on roller ski experience, so if you have roller skied before you will have a slightly more challenging ski session. We have some more stable roller skis if you do not have great balance.
The beginners' day will cover the following -
- Safety of the rifle;
- Rifle familiarisation;
- Rules of the Range - what to do on a shooting range;
- Position & Sighting - marksmanship principles;
- Live practice;
- Skating rollerskiing;
- Basic technique for beginners;
- Advanced technique, and a focus on hillwork for more experienced skiers (Redbridge has some excellent hills)
There will be 1x shooting and 1x rollerski session before lunch, and 1x shooting and 1x rollerski session after lunch. Everyone will attend an introduction at 09.45, then we will split the group in two, and some will start with rollerskiing, and the others with shooting.
The Level 2 course will include a re-cap of the skills covered in the beginners' course, and will go on to develop skills. It is a good progression if you have done the beginners' course or if you have experience of biathlon on snow. Marc now has harnesses for the rifles, so areas covered will include taking the rifle on and off, and transitioning from rollerskis into shooting on the range.
The Brownlee Centre + Bodington Cycle Circuit in Leeds is one of the newest cycle circuits in the UK, offering a mile of immaculate tarmac. It is the training base of many of the best triathletes in England, and the centre is named after GB's two most successful triathletes, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. You can read about the track here. We will share the track with the amazing Yorkshire Dales Cross-Country Ski Club, with whom you can continue the rollerski training.
Redbridge Cycle Circuit is situated on the outskirts of London, near the bottom of the M11. It has 3k of excellent tarmac, with both flat and hilly sections, and is our favourite rollerski venue. We will have access to a meeting room, and the range will be set up outside, in close proximity to the tracks. There's more about the circuit here.
Dorney Lake is a 2000m international rowing venue, surrounded by 15km of beautifully smooth, mainly flat tarmac tracks. It hosted the rowing and flat water canoeing events at the 2012 Olympics. It is situated off J7 of the M4. We also run rollerski courses here once or twice monthly between August and April. You can find out more about Dorney Lake here.
Please get in touch if you have any questions, either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8348 2540.
See also -
British Biathlon Union - governing body for biathlon
Laser Biathlon UK - running + shoothing biathlon competitions
Glenmore Lodge biathlon courses with Mike Dixon
Biathlon World, website of the IBU, free streaming of biathlon races
Dorney rollerski courses
Leeds rollerski course
Redbridge rollerski courses
Team Dorney and Redbridge