The Biathlon Bug
Emerald Connection, March 20, 2023
Our 8th grader highlight continues this week with a piece by Davis Brosterhous.
Coming into the range, I could hear the familiar sounds of my poles piercing the snow and the new and strange noises of rifles firing. It was freezing, and my hands and feet were cold. Large snowflakes were falling, making it incredibly difficult to see. When I found my mat, I struggled to set up my electric rifle, which I had only learned to shoot 15 minutes before. Everything was new so there wasn’t much to think about. I just lined up the little circles with the LED target and pulled the trigger. To my surprise, I shot all 5 targets and I was off to ski another lap. By the time I had finished the race, I could not stop smiling. I had only missed 1 shot out of 20, and I was on the podium. I may have been the only one in my category, and on an electric rifle with a shooting block (which is a setup that makes it practically impossible to miss), but I was on top of the world.
This was the first time I ever tried biathlon. At the time, I had been Nordic skiing for more than 6 years, but I was starting to lose my passion for it. The training had increased and I was starting to feel like Nordic skiing was only pain and suffering with little reward. I felt like I was putting everything into a sport I wasn’t sure I even liked. I was thinking about quitting.
At this point, the only experience I had with a gun was shooting a BB Gun once while camping. Apparently, I was a decent shot and my mom had suggested that I try biathlon. I was completely uninterested. Firstly, I was terrified of guns and the violence I’d heard on the news. I also didn’t understand the sport. I’d just seen a little of it on TV, but at this point in my nordic season I was willing to try it. So, we headed down to Casper, WY for the weekend to try out a race.
After that one experience on a cold and snowy January weekend, I had caught the ‘Biathlon Bug’ and I had a bad case. To my surprise, I reengaged in Nordic skiing through biathlon, and I started to train harder with my new focus. I borrowed actual .22 rifles and went to more races. I quickly learned that biathlon is a lot harder than I thought. Getting good at shooting takes a very long time and a lot of consistent practice. The steps are numerous. You have to move from an electric rifle to a real one, from a block to a sling and cuff, and then from prone (laying down) shooting to standing, and each step incredibly harder than the last. But practice makes perfect, and over time, I’ve improved. With each challenge I have overcome, I have gained more confidence to tackle the next. I have pushed myself more because I now have a reason to push myself, and that reason is my will to succeed in biathlon. I now approach every challenge with a different mindset, and a different drive. I know that I have the ability to overcome even the hardest challenges, but it is all about having the reason to try.
This next challenge was one of the hardest things I have ever had to overcome.
Last fall, it was time to move up to the U16 age group for skiing. I was extremely intimidated by the group, the coaches, and the intensity. Most of the U16 athletes are in high school, they train 6 days a week, and most miss school to get in strength sessions and runs. They are incredibly strong, committed and fast skiers. I just wanted to stay where I was. I was scared and lacking confidence in my abilities, but I knew that it would only make me better. I just had to show up. So, with biathlon in mind, I reluctantly decided to join them.
My first U16 training session was on a hot August Saturday. I was told it would be an easy roller ski, so I showed up prepared for a base-pace, low-speed ski. It was an easy ski, but it was the U16 version of easy. We ended up doing a 20-mile rollerski in 2 hours.
It was hot and hard, longer than any rollerski I had ever done, like 15 miles longer. I also didn’t know anyone in the group so I spent most of the time by myself. By the end, I was exhausted, starving and thirsty, and I had huge blisters on my feet and hands. I also felt accomplished.
Like I had with biathlon, I took a chance and it turned out to not only be something I am capable of, but something I enjoy. I am now training full time with the U16 nordic team and shooting multiple days a week. I have learned that doing something that may seem intimidating or challenging is the only way to make progress, and that being open to new ideas and trying something new is fun. It might even change your life. I was on the verge of quitting a sport that I love for the wrong reasons. Just showing up to one obscure race in Wyoming completely shifted my point of view and sparked my motivation.
Biathlon has given me a new perspective, a fresh start and the confidence to overcome other challenges in my life. It sparked a passion in me that has helped me to go toward the things that challenge me, instead of being afraid. I now enjoy pushing myself everyday, rather than fearing like I used to. I am learning that the first step towards something that scares you is also the first step toward growth and success. I would not know this if I hadn’t pushed myself to try something new. I’m only 14, but I’ve learned that, in life, you have to do hard things, whether it be in sports, school, or just in everyday life. It is the only way to truly learn what you are capable of, and, if anything, help you find a reason to be proud of yourself.