On Saturday January 24th  five members of the 585 Rideau Air Cadet Squadron, Smiths Falls, successfully competed in the Eastern Ontario Area (EOA) Zone Cadet Regional Biathlon competition alongside other Air Cadet squadrons as well as Navy and Army cadet compatriots.
The competition attracted a total 174 cadet participants, from Casselman/Cornwall west to Pickering and locally from Smiths Falls and Kemptville and Carleton Place, to the full day of events held at Camp Fortune, in Chelsea, Quebec. The biathlon is a multiple skill sport, combining cross country skiing and range shooting. For the regional competition each cadet, regardless of gender or age category, was required to complete three runs of a hilly 1.75 km cross country trail loop through the woods of Camp Fortune and two range shooting sessions of ten targets each in the prone position.
Staring at 30 second intervals the cadets headed off with the first of three cross country runs before completing their first range shoot, then return for their second cross country run and range shoot before a final lap around the Camp Fortune trail to the eventual finish line. The challenging trail was well groomed and the range area in top form, and combined with little wind and mild winter temperatures of about -2C throughout the day, provided for ideal competition conditions. Thank you to Camp Fortune for hosting an impressive day for the cadets and kudos to lead organizer Lt(N) Dan Denief, Cadet Instructor Corp officer from Carleton Place, and his team for an exceptionally run and most enjoyable competition.
Competing in 585 Rideau Air Cadet Squadron’s inaugural year for biathlon were Flight Sergeant (FSgt) Colin Fowler, Flight Corporals (FCpls) Nora Bright and Preston York as well as Corporal (Cpl) Marc Legere and Cadet (Cdt) Corbet Marsh. According to Capt Allyson Cordy, squadron Commanding Officer, this first go in biathlon was meant to provide the cadets with a new challenge and opportunity to demonstrate their skill and determination while allowing for a sense of accomplishment and great fun.
Recognizing the need to provide the cadets with sound coaching and mentoring, Capt Cordy enlisted the volunteer services of Capt Doug Earl and his over 15 years of biathlon coaching experience. Imparting the fundamentals of biathlon, Capt Earl successfully trained the cadets in the mechanics of cross country skiing and challenges of completing an efficient range shoot with an elevated heart rate in winter conditions.
Biathlon training for the cadets began in November, combining both dry-land and, once enough snow had fallen, cross country skiing sessions on a weekly basis. Although some of the cadets had previous skiing experience, none had cross country skied before and so all had to familiarize themselves with the equipment while learning the techniques of racing, climbing and turning. In addition, the cadets fired 22’s for the competition vice the Daisy Air rifle which they regularly train with in cadets, and, due to circumstances beyond the squadron’s control, only had the opportunity for a single familiarization training shoot the week prior to the biathlon competition. Regardless, the cadets headed off with confidence from Smiths Falls at about 6AM in the morning on Saturday January 24th, returning at 8:30 PM exhausted and exited by the day’s events.
The regional cadet competition consisted of various divisions according to gender and age as well as offering individual and team results. FSgt Colin Fowler competed in the senior division, ages 15 and 16, for boys while FCpl Preston York, Cpl Marc Legere and Cdt Corbet Marsh competed in the junior division, ages 12-14, for boys and FCpl Nora Bright in the junior division for girls. The cadets conducted themselves honourably, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and, given the lack of any previous biathlon experience, achieved outstanding results. Team 585, comprising the squadron’s best times, was the youngest of all teams and ranked 13th out of 25 teams. Individually, Sgt Fowler finished 22nd of 35 senior boys, Cpl Legere, Cdt Marsh and FCpl York finished 21st , 23rd and 26th respectively among 50 junior boys while FCpl Bright finished 21st of 29 junior girls.
The cadets represented 585 Rideau Squadron with distinction and should be commended for their individual efforts. As well, the squadron would like to recognize Capt Earl’s contributions, and are very thankful for the direction and guidance he provided. This first experience with the biathlon has been a tremendous success for all involved to build on. In the years to come 585 will continue to apply itself with much determination and hopes to advance cadets past the regional competition and onto provincial and national biathlon competitions with regularity.
Major Philippe Legere
585 Rideau Air Cadet Squadron, Smiths Falls