Steeeeeeady… |


Erick StudenickaReporter Dave Price takes aim during biathlon training.

I had a ski cap on. The ski gloves were on. The skis were on. So was the sun block. Now, I was ready to take my first shot at the winter sport of biathlon ” which tests an athlete’s skills at cross country skiing and precision target shooting.


Moving over to the shooting range, I carefully loaded the five-clip magazine into the .22 bolt action Anshutz rifle. The word careful is underlined here because the ammunition is live. As I prepared to shoot, I made sure of two safety features ” the bolt was open and the barrel pointed either up in the air or down range, and my finger is kept away from the trigger until I am ready to shoot.

From a prone position, I take a deep breath and focus through the sights and take aim at a series of five targets located some 50 meters away. Before my sights are set, however, I begin to squeeze the trigger. To my surprise, I realize the trigger is very sensitive.

I hear a shot. I hit something, but not any of the targets. I took out the lane marker.


Well, so much for my first experience with biathlon Saturday afternoon at a clinic hosted by the Auburn Ski Club near Donner Summit.

I have been familiar with biathlon dating back to the 1970s when I followed the competitive career of Glenn Jobe, the founder of both the Kirkwood and Tahoe Donner Cross Country areas who represented the United States in the biathlon at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. (Jobe was inducted into the University of Nevada’s Wolf Pack Hall of Fame in 2003).

I always watch the sport when the Winter Olympics are aired on television and I always marvel at the strength, skill and aerobic capacity of world class athletes who are able to race 10- to 20-kilometers with a rifle on their back, while making periodic stops to shoot at targets.

This is an event that combines two sports that are polar opposites. I mean, these athletes have an ability to stop in the middle of their race, relax enough to bring their pulse rates down to what most of us would consider “resting,” and then calmly shoot five straight bull’s-eyes.

I now know first-hand just how amazing biathletes truly are, thanks to some prodding from former Sierra Sun sports editor Erick Studenicka, who now works for the Nevada National Guard and has competed in the Guard’s National Biathlon Championships the last two years.

“I remember watching it in the Olympics on TV and thinking it was a fascinating sport,” Studenicka said. “I tried a summer biathlon when I was still in college (at Sonoma State University). Then after I moved up here and learned how to ski, I found out it’s one of the four sports the National Guard sponsors teams for, so I started training more to do biathlons.”

On Sunday, he finished 11th in the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon held at Auburn Ski Club with a time of 24 minutes-flat on the six kilometer course. Jakub Benes, a former Nordic ski and cross country running standout at Middlebury College, won the race in 17:49 and former Nevada Nordic coach Jeff Schloss was second in 18:23.

“I think it kind of becomes addictive because there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s with the marksmanship or the skiing,” Studenicka said. “Even the world class athletes, they’re always trying to either get one target more or ski a little faster.”

The race itself has special significance because it is sponsored by the famed 10th Mountain Division, which distinguished itself in Italy during World War II. Among the alums of the 10th Mountain Division are two noteworthy men ” Bob Dole, the former senator from Kansas and presidential candidate in 1996, and David R. Brower, who earned a bronze star in Italy and is known for being the Sierra Club’s first executive director.

By the way, there is a penalty when you miss any of the targets on the range in a biathlon. You have to ski a penalty lap, as Auburn Ski Club Nordic Director Sally Jones explained during the clinic.

“The penalty laps are 10 kilometers long,” she said, laughing.

Fortunately, she was just kidding. You see, given the accuracy I described earlier, I would enter a 6-kilometer race and have to ski an extra 100 kilometers ” or 62 miles ” in penalty laps.

But, give me a little credit. I had not been on cross country skis in at least eight years and I had not shot a rifle since I was about 11 or 12.

By the way, I did manage to clear the five targets from both the prone and standing positions, though I will not divulge how many clips I went through. Whoops!

Dave Price is a sports writer at the Nevada Appeal, Sierra Sun’s sister paper in Carson City. He can be reached at

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