Trained by a RCMP sniper on the frozen shores of the Beaufort Sea, two athletes from the remote community of Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., are set to compete in the snowshoe biathlon at the Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.
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It's a big stage for 15-year-olds Lucyann Okheena and Jacob Klengenberg. Neither has ever left Canadian soil, and both have only trained in biathlon for about a year.
"You run one kilometre and then you shoot in a shooting range, and then you run again," explains Okheena.
Klengenberg says he found it interesting because "I had never snowshoed and I wanted to learn more about shooting.
"It's hard sometimes because some days are really cold and other days are blizzardy. It's unpredictable."
Ulukhaktok, on the west coast of Victoria Island in the Beaufort Sea, is one of the few N.W.T. communities located above the treeline.
The N.W.T Biathlon Association visited the hamlet in the summer of 2015, and association president Pat Bobinski demonstrated the sport to about 25 youth in the community. He says Okheena and Klengenberg picked up biathlon with ease.
Bobinski says the goal was just to get an athlete from Ulukhaktok to the N.W.T. trials for the Arctic Winter Games — and Klengenberg and Okheena ended up winning.
"I am really very impressed with them and very happy for them and the whole community," says Bobinski.
Duncan Marsh, an RCMP officer in Ulukhaktok, is trained in long-distance marksmanship with the RCMP's Emergency Response Team. He helped refine Okheena and Klengenberg's shooting skills. The team trained five days a week to get ready for the games.
"They just needed a little help to get themselves to the next level," says Marsh.
"We sharpened a few things up on the range and got lots of practice in, which was all they really needed."
Marsh says biathlon is very much a mental game.
"You're running a snowshoe race at the same time, and trying to shoot accurately while exhausted," he says.
Klengenberg says Marsh taught them to control their breathing to improve their steadiness. He says he's hoping to hit the podium in Nuuk.
"I am hoping to make new friends and try my best," says Okheena, who also wants to do a bit of shopping in Greenland. Nuuk has a population of about 17,000 people, making it a big city compared to the roughly 400 people living in Ulukhaktok.