Nord is one of eight members of the South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association Moose Jaw Biathlon Club. His father Curtis was a local coach for eight athletes.
As the Winter Olympics draw to a close in China, there is one local athlete who will be taking the next big step towards a day of chance to win Olympic gold.
And it’s not a winter sport, despite having a Moose Jaw club, many think of the Moose Javians. Her sport is biathlon and her athlete is Kaycee Nord.
Nord, a 16-year-old Peacock Collegiate student and 11th grader, is gearing up to fulfill his dream of someday Olympic success as he will compete in the Canadian National Biathlon Championships to be held March 11 – 18 in Prince George, BC.
“I think it will be quite a fun activity and I will do my best to beat them. That’s what I can do better,” said the aspiring athlete MJ Mandiri in a telephone interview.
Nord is one of the eight (8) members of the South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association’s Moose Jaw Biathlon Biathlon Club. His father Curtis was a local coach for eight athletes.
The sport of biathlon combines cross-country skiing with shooting in what the New York Times describes as a sport that combines endurance with precision. The winner is determined by the fastest time to complete the course.
Participants in the event must ski a certain distance and then shoot and hit the target. Failing to hit the target results in a penalty round on the small circuit which adds to the athlete’s final time.
Athletes have improved heart and breathing from the skis they have to fight to hit the target and not the ski penalty rounds.
Nord, who started cross-country skiing at the age of nine, says he took up biathlon at the same time.
“I went on my first ski in the winter I got into biathlon. So it’s been seven years (since I started this sport.”
But why biathlon?
“I just found an interesting sport, I guess. My sister is at the rodeo and , ”she said about why she initially took up biathlon. And at the rodeo they had a shooting event at Pilot Butte and we got to use the Regina Wildlife Federation circuit. And the biathlon head coach there asked if he could take some athletes from Regina there to show the kids what biathlon is. And that’s how I got into biathlon.”
This exercise can be both challenging and relaxing, says Nord.
“I enjoy biathlon. It’s different and definitely a challenge and I’m enjoying it and it’s a lot of fun. This is a lot of fun to do. This is a very good challenge.”
Despite the misconception that biathlon is not a big sport, Nord says his local interest is that the sport is more like a big family and Canada has some strong international competitors.
“We have a very good Canadian team in the national biathlon world cup and I want to be in that team one day and that’s what I respect. Especially the female athletes because I can relate to them more,” she said.
Canada has leading female biathlon competitors such as Myriam Bedard who won a bronze medal in the 15 km individual event at the 1992 Olympics and then in the 1994 Olympics winning gold in the 7.5 km sprint and the 15 km individual event.
Bedard is the only North American to win medals – in both men’s and women’s events – at the Olympic Games.
As a girl younger in sport, her father Curtis, as well as her coach locally, said his daughter Kaycee “respects the athletes who are older than the girls in Saskatchewan.”
“Now she has become one of those girls that the younger generation is starting to see and respect. Biathlon in Saskatchewan is a small and wonderful community. We call it the biathlon family. It’s a very good environment,” said Curt.
“But that’s how the kids in Saskatchewan are. They start and they see older athletes competing and seem to encourage that spirit,” he said.
The training for the national championship is very intensive.
Not only is there shooting practice at the South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association for the entire Moose Jaw club every Tuesday but there’s also physical conditioning.
She skis every day – up to 12 kilometers – supplementing that with workouts in the gym three times a week plus a stationary bike in between.
“I try to ski as much as I can, when I can,” he said.
Being in good physical shape is important but so is the mental aspect of biathlon.
Nord says when you reach the end of your biathlon shoot, you should be able to mentally focus on the task while at the same time blocking the effects of harder breathing, increased heart rate and fatigue from the speed of the workout.
“You have to have a constant ski race that isn’t a leisurely walk in the park at high speed. It’s more like I’m able to maintain a constant race pace. You have to try to develop your ski strength, speed and have good cardio to be able to breathe as much air as you can so you can keep pushing hard.”
Biathletes in Saskatchewan are trained to use mental images of their hitting a target to help relieve fatigue and skiing effort, he says.
“It all depends on the athlete’s technique from pushing hard on the trail to shooting clean at distance.”
In addition, the length of the track that must be traversed during the competition increases with the age of the biathlete.
Asked if there were any difficulties getting accepted and getting facilities because biathlon is not seen as a typical Canadian winter sport like other sports like hockey and curling Nord said it was true to some extent.
“It’s hard to start ranges, spans well (ski trails and things like that,” he said.
He points to the example of how in Moose Jaw shooting was carried out indoors without skis. The range can also be met by the eight club members who use the facility, he said.
“In biathlon you shoot with your skis… but with or practice you can have six kids at a time but the skis just get in the way. So we don’t shoot with our skis. That’s not bad. If you have a lot of kids who are tall enough, there’s a lot of overlapping legs,” he says.
Another problem is that until this year, there were no cross-country ski trails in town which meant traveling to Buffalo Pound or Regina to ski.
RELATED VIEW – Moose Jaw Trails Great News For Biathletes
“Moose Jaw now has some traces. It’s kind of nice to have something to go and ski,” he said, adding “after school and early you don’t have to drive anywhere.”
“Yeah, I’m really glad we have a trail. We haven’t done the treatment yet but the walk is good. a fairly new trail isn’t too bad.”
Curtis interrupts saying “and Mother Earth hasn’t been too nice to us this year but Kaycee is pumped up and all the other Moose Jaw athletes can’t wait to get out and go skiing.”
Well-maintained path was established in partnership between the newly formed Moose Jaw XC Ski Club Inc, Wakamow Valley Authority and City of Moose Jaw has been great because it saves a lot of travel.
“No need to drive to Buffalo Pound, Regina, or anything like that just to ski,” is a key benefit brought about by the reopening of trails in the Wakamow Valley.
Although this will be his first trip to the national finals of biathlon is a sport, when compared to other winter sports, where the better and elite athletes are in their mid to late twenties.
“It’s definitely an older and late-developing sport,” he said.
He has been on the high performance team of SaskFirst for the last three years.
To participate in the Canadian finals he must first qualify for the event.
Asked by MJ Independent what he thought of his first-ever national competition, Nord said it was something he was looking forward to and one of the steps he needed to take if he was to achieve his goal of becoming the Canadian national team one day.
He says in competition he has seen the skiing abilities of other biathletes – especially those from Alberta – but feels he has the skiing ability on them because of his shooting ability.
“I think it will be quite a fun activity and I will do my best to beat them (other competitors). That’s what I can do better.”
Curtis said the family was proud of his daughter’s accomplishments.
“We are all very excited about this and Kaycee is very happy to be in the team this year.”
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