Seven Australian Defence Force Nordic Skiing and Biathlon Association members spent Australia Day in the heart of the Bavarian Alps for a British military nordic skiing and biathlon competition.
They competed in Exercise RUCKSACK, the British National, Interservice and Army Championships, held in Ruhpolding, Bavaria (Germany), at the Chiemgau Arena from 20 January to 15 February.
The exercise is the British military’s pinnacle championships in nordic skiing and biathlon, with top-performing members selected to represent Great Britain at World Cup and Olympic levels.
The biathlon involved cross-country skiing and competition shooting in the prone and standing positions.
The Australian contingent competed against biathletes from the British Army, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Marines and the German Army Reserves, as well as civilian visitors. The aim was to foster goodwill and esprit de corps while enhancing courage, initiative, teamwork, fitness and resilience in a challenging alpine environment.
Team Manager Lieutenant Sven Howorth, of the Directorate of Navy Safety, was awarded the prize for first guest across the line in the 15 kilometres classic cross-country race.
Lieutenant Howorth said it was a privilege for an Australian Defence Force team to be invited to participate in such a high-profile event.
“The event was exceptionally coordinated in a superb venue, which only two weeks earlier was host to World Cup biathlon races,” he said.
“Exposure to these facilities allowed us to develop our sporting abilities, and excel, over the course of the competition.”
The Australian Defence Force has been sending teams to participate in the exercise for 12 years.
Lead-up training for the 2017 competition was held in Austria and Italy and consisted of 10 days of skiing and technique development sessions in arduous conditions.
The team then moved to Ruhpolding, where members participated in eight races over 2.5 weeks, including sprint (7.5 kilometres) and Olympic (20 kilometres) events, and a team relay.
The competition culminated in a 30 kilometres military patrol race in which members, carrying military equipment and rifles, navigated to checkpoints.
The Australian Defence Force Nordic Skiing and Biathlon Association promotes cross-country skiing and biathlon with the annual two week Exercise COOLSHOT run by the Army Nordic Skiing Association, Navy Nordic Skiing and Biathlon Association and the Air Force Nordic Biathlon Association at Mount Hotham in the heart of the Victorian Alps.