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Boosters aim to take another shot at biathlon

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010

Last winter Tim Bruno and his family spent their evenings gathered around the TV watching cross-country skiing events in the 2010 Olympics.

Bruno's two children might have been hoping to glean some tips on their technique from the pros, but it was biathlon -- a sport that combines both cross-country skiing and marksmanship -- that really caught their attention.

Bruno's kids were participating in the Tsalteshi Youth Ski Program at the time.

"We started talking about if (biathlon) was something they would be interested in, and sure enough it was," Bruno said, speaking at a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Luncheon held in Froso's in Soldotna on Tuesday.

Opportunities on the Kenai Peninsula to participate in the sport have been limited though.

"Both my wife and I believe that our kids need to get out and exercise," he said.

Bruno said he attended a clinic held in Anchorage last spring, and through a friend, connected with the Tsalteshi Trails Association Board of Directors about starting a local club.

The board oversees a network of trails located behind Skyview High School that are maintained for skiing in the winter.

Biathlon on the central Peninsula has for the better part of the past decade been a contentious issue, pitting enthusiasts against both each other and laws that prohibit firearms on school property.

Bruno said he wasn't interested in that past.

"I know there has been some conflict, I don't know the extent of it, I'm not really interested in knowing all the details, what I'm interested in is getting my kids involved in the sport," he said.

To move forward, Bruno said they looked into using guns that shoot a harmless laser beam that will be safe for use and transport, even over school grounds.

"It's not what you see in the movies where people are obliterating each other with a laser rifle," he said, joking to the laughing audience.

He explained that the guns, which are designed to replicate a .22-rifle, shoot out an invisible infrared beam at a specialized target.

At a cost of $1,000 for a gun and a target, however, Bruno will have his work cut out for him.

On Tuesday he said they're hoping local businesses might chip in.

Bruno also said the Tsalteshi board had written a matching grant for whatever was donated.

Along with biathlon, Bruno said the Tsalteshi Trails Biathlon Club, as it has been dubbed, would teach up to 20 youth how to safely handle and care for a firearm while offering more avenues to be outside and take part in a sport.

The club would run in unison with the youth ski program as well, which offers ski coaching for 6- to 12-year-olds from January through March, twice a week, plus every other Saturday.

Bruno said the young biathletes would partake in the mid-week ski classes and do biathlon every Saturday through the season.

He said they're hoping to get at least six guns and had just mailed out registration letters, but was expecting to see interest from both parents and children.

"I think it's a natural sport for the area," he said. "Cross-country skiing is a great sport to be involved in and Alaska is a place where guns are accepted and marksmanship is very important."

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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