True to his sport
Fort Smith biathlon range christened

by Cheryl Leschasin
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 24/97) - Don True of Fort Smith has a good reason to be proud this week.

On Feb. 15 the brand new Fort Smith biathlon range hosted it's first competition -- the second Polar Cup Race.

True, a master biathlete, spent countless hours obtaining permission from the Alberta government to develop the course. Although only two miles from the town, the course is located across the NWT border on Alberta turf.

Once permission was obtained, True started to clear five acres of land for the course.

An arrangement was made between True and Don Tourangeau, heavy equipment instructor at Arctic College.

The students were able to practise their skills clearing the area and True was able to reduce his costs to practically nothing.

"It worked out great," said True. "It helped train the students and it helped the club".

Stan Dean donated the use of his brush-rake, the one piece of equipment the college didn't have. The brush-rake was used to push trees into piles for burning.

Once the land was cleared and safety berms in place, True began the work of surveying and cutting trails.

The club's costs were further reduced when local building suppliers and the Town of Fort Smith donated building materials for target stands, among other things.

True, a gold medalist in the 1971 Arctic Winter Games in Anchorage, Alaska, and three-year Canadian masters champion, gave up training to build the range.

"We needed to get some young blood into the sport," True said. "We had too many old horses like me hanging on".

True said he feels that biathlon is well-suited to the North, especially considering many young people have had experience with .22-calibre rifles.

The race, which included both ski and snowshoe competitors, was almost brought to a halt due to cold weather. The morning temperature was -26 C.

Barb Cameron, vice-president of the NWT Biathlon Association and a Yellowknife coach, said, "We definitely kept safety in mind. We would have cut off the race had it gotten colder.

Four categories of biathletes participated: juvenile boys, juvenile girls, juvenile boys snowshoe and junior boys snowshoe.

The North is the only place in the world that snowshoe biathlon is practised, Cameron said.

Gordon Stephenson of Yellowknife won first place in the juvenile boys' category. Rae-Edzo's Vivian Drybones took first in juvenile girls. Tom Wetrade of Rae-Edzo placed first in Juvenile boys' snowshoe and Leslie Mackenzie, also of Rae-Edzo, captured first in junior boys' snowshoe.

Competitors from Fort Smith, Rae-Edzo, Hay River and Yellowknife took part.