Fifteen-year-old biathlete Paige Johnston

West Shore biathletes target winter games

Fourteen-year-old Evan Szabo, controls his breathing, focuses and squeezes the trigger.

Fourteen-year-old Evan Szabo, controls his breathing, focuses and squeezes the trigger.

After grinding his arms and legs across snowy terrain as fast as they will take them, he stops, lies down and forces his body to quell its thirst for oxygen before firing again.

The Grade 9 student has become so adept at the process, the biathlete set his sights on the B.C. Winter Games, and found his mark.

“I am really excited about it, I hope to win a medal” said Szabo, a John Stubbs Memorial school student. “I really want to use my skills and use my experience and place. If I do, that would be huge but I want to enjoy myself as well.”

Once used as training for the Norwegian army, the sport combines the athleticism of cross-country skiing and the mental fortitude of shooting targets after vigorous exercis.

Two years after discovering the hybrid sport in cadets, Szabo continues to relish training time at Mt. Washington, where he makes the trek most weekends during the snowy season. It’s a sport he has passion for, but sometimes has to explain to others what it’s all about.

“It is a different sport, not many people know about it, (but) it’s a lot of fun,” said Szabo who is also delivers the Goldstream Gazette newspaper. “But it is really quite physically demanding.”

Even more so for someone still relatively new to the sport, his athleticism trumped his lack of experience, carrying him through the provincial’s where he qualified for the B.C. Winter Games as the youngest competitor in his category.

Today and Saturday he’ll be in Vernon for the games alongside four other Vancouver Island biathletes, including teammate Paige Johnston.

“It takes a lot of dedication, if you are not dedicated you aren’t really going to fit,” the 15-year-old Belmont student said. “(Representing Victoria) is a huge honour and not something you can do very often. This is the last year I can go to the B.C. Winter Games so I am really excited about it.”

While excitement and nerves are also there for Szabo, the sport itself has prepared him well for the tasks he believes are as much mental as they are physical.

“When you ski it is go, go, go. When you go to the range you have a mental checklist,” he said. “I slow down, take really deep breaths … load, breath two more breaths, stop breathing — and shoot.”

Despite being quite a few years away from making any decisions on his future as a biathlete, he would welcome the opportunity to one day represent Canada on the Olympic stage. But for now he is happy with pursuing what he loves to do.

“I need to play sports, I need to exercise otherwise my brain doesn’t work,” he said. “It is a passion.”



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