The Australian Defence Force Nordic Ski and Biathlon competitors had their resilience tested as Mother Nature turned on extremes of wind-driven snow during Exercise Coolshot 2015. The annual competition held at Mount Hotham, Victoria, combines the independent disciplines of Nordic skiing and small bore sports rifle shooting into the challenging sport called Nordic Biathlon.
Teams from each service conducted a training week followed by the championships.
Able Seaman Marine Technician Tom O’Flaherty joined the Navy team all the way from Darwin.
“Many of us had not skied before but by the end of the first week we were skiing and sport shooting all in very trying conditions,” he said.
“We enjoyed the alpine environment, lots of fresh snow and I was really surprised at how quickly I adapted to this completely new sport, especially coming from a patrol boat!”
The championships consisted of multiple races over distances ranging from 5km to 15km with set shooting stations that tested marksmanship ability.
Navy competitor, Warrant Officer Aircrewman Josh Than, said the physical exertion made accuracy difficult.
“The adrenaline of the race and the alpine conditions challenged every aspect of our shooting,” he said.
All competitors displayed outstanding esprit de corps and sportsmanship and embodied the spirit to which the competition was aimed. Army was declared the overall 2015 championship victors followed by Air Force then Navy.
The relevance of biathlon to Australian Defence Force personnel remains as pertinent today as when it was devised by the Norwegian military in the 18th century - to shoot accurately under stress and to work as a team in a challenging environment and to develop the skills required for operations.