Summerland’s Natalie Benoit will compete against the top biathlon athletes in the country next week.
Benoit will compete in the Canadian National Biathlon competition March 7 to 11 in Prince George.
Biathlon is a winter sport combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The cross-country skiing portion is a demanding cardio exercise, while the shooting requires calmness.
So far this year, Benoit has competed in Canmore, West Kelowna, Quesnel, Whistler and Burns Lake. She has received five gold medals and two bronze medals.
Last year she competed in the Penticton B.C. Winter Games winning gold in the sprint girls junior and silver in individual girls junior.
On Feb. 12, she was named top senior girl biathlete in the province.
Her shooting average during provincial races is 79 per cent. In comparison to other Canadian athletes her age, she is skiing with a reference of 102.5 per cent.
While Benoit has excelled at the provincial level and is currently ranked top in British Columbia, she anticipates tough competition, especially from Alberta and Quebec athletes.
“I’m really excited to challenge myself,” she said.
Courses are six or eight kilometres in length. Benoit is able to complete the course in 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the day’s conditions.
While factors such as snow conditions, wind and light can affect the athlete’s performance, biathlon performance depends entirely on the athlete’s skill, Benoit said.
“It’s not luck, which is what many people think,” she said. “It’s 100 per cent science.”
Benoit trains at Telemark Nordic Club in West Kelowna with coaches Chris Faldersen and Etienne Letonneur.
The national competition will be held at the New Caledonia Nordic Club.