(upbeat rock music) - Biathlon is such an exciting sport.
We have this awesome dichotomy of the aerobic intensity of cross-country skiing, and the mental focus that needs to happen for precision shooting.
(music cuts) (upbeat rock music cuts) - I will say that biathlon is exploding in the US right now.
When I was competing only six or seven years ago, really, there was only programs from the East Coast and Alaska.
And in the last five, six, seven years we've had programs grow in California, Washington, Bozeman, here in Casper, Salt Lake City has revived their program, Minnesota is booming.
- We have seen actually since 2020 our numbers really increasing and especially on the younger end, which is really what we wanna see.
We wanna really grow that base of kids, people who are getting into the sport at a young age, finding out that they really love it and then hopefully doing it for their whole life.
And especially like having a venue like this in a place where there are a lot of kids that are active outdoors, this is perfect so you can get more kids involved in the sport.
- [Narrator] Ken Miech coaches a Casper Biathlon team called Wyo BEAT that mainly targets youth participation.
(upbeat rock music) - So I've got two freshmen in high school and then the rest of them are middle schoolers.
So we've got a pretty good range of kids out here.
We have experience anywhere, 7, 8, 9 years up until a couple of the athletes that are out here.
This was their very first biathlon race ever.
- [Narrator] People in the small Wyoming biathlon community expect that interest within the state will grow.
The sport holds a lot of appeal to people who choose to be active in our long Wyoming winters.
(upbeat rock music) (rifle shots pinging) - You know, this is the perfect Wyoming thing to get outside in the wintertime.
We've got snow so we're gonna make the most of it, and so you put those two sports together, outside shooting in Wyoming in the wintertime and, you know, it's a relatively unknown sport, but once people get exposure to it, they really take a liking to it.
It seems really easy to get people hooked on the sport after they're exposed just a little bit.
- [Narrator] In the past, biathlon hotbeds in the United States have been on the East Coast, but Wyoming, and specifically Casper, has a lot to offer culminating in Casper hosting the 2023 US Biathlon National Championships.
- Came from Vermont, which has a very rich and deep history of biathlon and a very strong biathlon community.
When I moved to Wyoming, I came across Rob Rosser here at Casper Mountain and the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club.
I walked into what is truly a world class biathlon facility and we're seeing that on display this week with the USBA Nationals.
- [Narrator] Harry Brubaker, a former National Guard biathlete living in Wyoming, saw the opportunity to plant the seeds and grow a biathlon presence in Casper.
He recruited Rob Rosser, former Biathlon Olympian and fellow National Guard biathlete, to come help make that happen.
- That led into us putting this venue in in 2015.
I didn't wanna do a whole lot of work for a nine point range so we went all the way and made a world class range, and here we are hosting US Nationals.
(upbeat rock music) - [Narrator] Rob made sure the facility was up to all the international biathlon standards and then made his plea for Nationals to come to Wyoming.
- In general, we try to move around the country and give different areas the opportunity to host.
So hosting here at Casper has been something we wanted to do for a long time.
They've put a lot of energy and money into this venue here and being able to come and highlight the work that they've done at this venue and really showcase the beauty that's here in the middle of Wyoming is really awesome for us to do.
And it's really cool, especially for us to see such good participation at this event.
We think we have about 154 athletes that are registered which is probably I think the second biggest nationals that we've had.
(upbeat rock music) - [Narrator] Hosting nationals has been a real feather in the cap of the Wyoming biathlon community.
The hope is that the exposure the sport gets generates enthusiasm and more participants.
- You know, what comes first, the athletes or the venue?
And I think many times we've seen that if you build it, they will come.
And so building this venue here and putting the right people in place to promote biathlon, hopefully not too far down the road there's a large contingent of athletes from the Casper area, the Wyoming area.
Or even if they're trying to build an elite program here, even having athletes come in from out of state to base themselves out of Casper to train 'cause it's is a great training facility.
We're so high in altitude right now that it's really good for endurance training.
(intense music) - [Narrator] A typical biathlon race usually consists of skiing laps alternating with bouts of shooting at the range, sometimes in prone position, sometimes standing.
(upbeat rock music) (wind gusting) (rifle shot clicking) For every shot missed, athletes are required to do a short penalty lap which ultimately adds to their final time determining the results.
(upbeat rock music) (indistinct crowd chattering) (music cuts) - You know, biathlon wouldn't be biathlon unless you're skiing around with a gun on your back.
So the harness keeps the gun on your back, like yay.
We all ski into the range, put our poles in one hand, put our arm through that harness, we grab the barrel, pull that bugger around and go to town.
Designed specifically for biathlon.
Biathlon rifles have a minimum weight, just under eight pounds.
So everybody's kind of carrying a relatively similar load on their back.
They shoot low velocity .22 caliber cartridges.
Five rounds in each magazine, you have five shots at each turn in the range.
(upbeat rock music) - It's the best sport.
I mean, you combine the physical requirements of cross country skiing, which many scientists and sports physiologists will say is among the toughest and most demanding sports.
And you combine it with marksmanship and you have to shut everything down and be able to thread a needle at 50 meters.
So, in my opinion, it's the perfect blend of a very physical sport and a very mental sport.
(upbeat rock music) (upbeat rock music continues)