NBC Montana: Olympic Sport of Biathlon Resurges in Popularity Across Montana

Originally aired on NBC Montana – January, 7, 2018

Biathletes are about to show Olympic fans a wide range of skill from the ski hills to the rifle shooting range.

Montana biathletes took us to a local course to show us all that goes into the sport.

“You can be the best skier in the world, but if you are not a good shooter, it doesn’t matter at all,” said 8th grade Montana biathlete, Alex Love.

Long before that mastery can excite Olympic fans, it must play out for years on courses like one operated by the Bridger Biathlon Club outside Bozeman.

“It’s that dichotomy of going hard and then being calm.  That is the excitement of biathlon,” said masters biathlete, Cory Hoeger.

Biathlon originated as a military sport in Scandinavia.

“It started with classic skiing.  Then they added in the women’s division.  When skate skiing developed, it switched from classic skiing to skate skiing,” said Bridger Biathlon Club coach, Kelly Kjorlien.

Biathletes tell NBC Montana it takes a lot of mental conditioning to switch from skiing to shooting.

“At about the end of the last hill, that’s where my mind changes to shooting.  I take a breath, calm down, come into the range and think, how do I need to focus on my shooting.  Once you finish the up-hill, it’s a total change to range procedure: polls off, visor up, open front sight, on the mat, rifle off the back, into shooting…. breathe, breathe, breathe, shoot,” said Hoeger.

“It takes work and effort, but then, to come down to the range and calm down and shoot five on five, it takes brain power and you have to be mentally ready for that,” said Love.

Biathlon requires a lot of endurance training all year long.

“You have to really be thinking about how you are training, how many hours you are putting in, and at what effort you are training.  Then you add in the marksmanship part of that.  You spend a lot of time on the range, getting dialed in on your shooting,” said Kjorlien.

The Bridger Biathlon Club is one of several across western Montana gaining in popularity.  More than 60 members compete, and invite others to a number of events.

Bozeman native, Ariana Woods is involved with the club.  She is taking aim at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

The 18-year-old has been skiing since she could walk, and is now competing in World Junior Biathlon events all over the world.

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