Breathe and Blossom-What I Learned at a Biathlon Clinic

Mina Samuels
4 min readFeb 1, 2023
Aaron Doucette on unsplash

In the spirit of “welcome”, my word of the year, I’m trying to open myself to the flow of life. So, when I happened to walk through the Tahoe Donner cross-country ski center and saw a notice that a biathlon clinic (that’s skiing and shooting a target) was happening the next day, I signed up before I had time to talk myself out of it. For more than a decade, every winter, I promise myself that I’ll take a biathlon clinic and then somehow, magically, I am never available (or they aren’t offered due to pandemics). The date I signed up for was the only one of the three Sundays offered that I could participate. I didn’t have anything big planned for the Sunday and still I felt some resistance. Oh, it’s too cold. I don’t want to do it alone (originally it was something a friend of mine and I had wanted to do together, but that was already 10 years ago and she moved away 6 years ago). I’m tired from the week and would rather hang out on the couch.

I did it anyway.

Biathlon is my favourite Winter Olympics sport. As a spectator (and someone who cross country skis), it has always looked ferociously hard. Repeated ski sprints, punctuated by quick stops to take 5 shots at a target, with penalty loops if you miss any of the 5 shots. I tried to imagine what it would be like after skiing hard to stop and, instead of hanging over my poles gasping for breath, I had to calm my heart asap and be precise.

Now I know.

It is indeed ferociously hard.

Here’s a clip of some women’s biathlon highlights from this year. Note-in my clinic we practiced shooting from a prone position (pictured earlier) in which it is much easier to catch one’s breath and aim; versus the standing position, which is usual in world class competition:

I’m really glad I took the clinic. Even though it was brutally cold, especially on the bare trigger fingers. And even though when we did a 20-minute, 3-loop-3-rounds-of-shooting race at the end, I was DFL (dead fucking last) out of the 8 of us in the clinic. Still, that feeling of dropping prone to the ground, getting into position and raising the sight to my eye was a sizzle of power. I realized that I had never pulled a trigger in my life. Okay, I wasn’t pulling live rounds. For a first effort, we were…



Mina Samuels

Writer. Performer. Citizen. Traveler. Enthusiast. Author of Run Like a Girl 365 Days A Year and other books.