The first Biathlon Orienteering Championship for Belgian military units was held in the Belgian province of Hainaut on Tuesday, 21 June 2011.
In the woody and hilly area of Stambruges, a small town in Hainaut between Mons and Tournai, the Tournai-based Logistics Department (CC Sp Dept Log) hosted the first edition of this new discipline by Belgian standards.
With the aim of promoting military-oriented sports, the Logistics Department is always looking for innovative and attractive disciplines to which both professional military athletes and rank-and-file military sportsmen and women can relate. Thus, as a combination of orienteering and shooting, Biathlon Orienteering is in this context an ideal training format to both physically and operationally test active servicemen and women, regardless of age, gender and training level.
Early in the morning, slightly more than 100 athletes gathered around the Mer de Sable (“Sand See”), a sandy area in the Stambruges woods. In the course of the morning, it became obvious that this sandpit – a former horse-racing track – provided an ideal hub and transition area between the different orienteering courses and shooting sessions.
Given that very few Belgian athletes were familiar with Biathlon Orienteering, the sequence of competitive events was demonstrated beforehand. All participants carefully listened to the explanations provided about the successive events from start to finish:
- A 420m orienteering sprint in the form of a traditional course with four markers on a 1:2000 scale map;
- A first shooting session with five cartridges fired prone from a distance of 10m with the EKO-AIMS electronic biathlon rifle;
- A second orienteering run in the form of a 2,000m course drawn on a 1:7000 map. This is a seldom-used competitive format whereby runners have to spot and follow in the field a line drawn on the map to find consecutive markers indicated on their control description sheet. This technique is a training favourite among experienced orienteering specialists at it teaches them how to read their map correctly and very accurately;
- A second stop in the shooting range to take out five mechanical targets placed at a distance of 10m while kneeling, with a traditional lead pellet air rifle;
- A third and final orienteering run in the form a classic course based on a 1:8000 map over a distance of 5,500m (Cat. M 21-H35), 4,500m (Cat. M 40-H45) or 3,500m (Cat. M 50 and women).
This sequence of fairly different events complicates biathletes’ life both physically and technically. To top it all, at the end of each orienteering run they need to concentrate and focus on their short but decisive shooting assignment. Every miss carries a 150m penalty lap (around a rink set in the sandpit of the Mer de Sable!!).This penalty system is comparable to the competitive conditions used in the better known winter biathlon combining cross-country skiing and shooting – the latter generally with .22 rifles at a distance of 100m.
To further complicate things in Stambruges, the orienteering was done using the so-called La fontaine bouillante map, a technically intricate map putting orienteering specialists to the ultimate test, especially as course designers Phillippe Baguet and Daniel Dangriaux had done their utmost to provide a technically demanding competitive course.
Starting at 10am, biathletes were released in waves of three at three-minute intervals. So until 12.15pm, there was a constant, regular stream of biathletes entering and leaving the shooting range, which provided for a busy but perfectly controlled event scenario.
The combination of successive events, technically demanding courses and penalty laps for missed shots ensured that altogether, it took athletes and hour and a half on average to complete the three runs.
After the event and despite the sustained effort required from all athletes, they were all unanimously convinced by this newly-developed spin-off of traditional orienteering.
Combined sport events including the traditional winter biathlon, ski orienteering and biathlon patrol racing are already more firmly rooted notably in the Scandinavian and Alpine countries – though a stronger winter sports culture admittedly exists there compared to the Low Countries. But this biathlon orienteering does provide a finely balanced alternative in case of a lack of adequate winter conditions! So a note can already be made in agendas on 12 September 2012 for the 2nd edition of the Dangriaux Biathlon Orienteering Challenge organised in Tournai by the Logistics Department. See you there.
POC Biathlon Orienteering
Nicolas VAN RENTERGHEM
Captain-Offr LOS CC Sp Dept Log
32(0)69 88 58 15