A Historic Leap Forward: The Inaugural Para Biathlon Capacity Building Forum 2023

Last week, the biathlon community witnessed a landmark event as Ruhpolding, Germany, played host to the first-ever IBU Para Biathlon Camp from August 23-27. Taking place in the renowned Chiemgau Arena, this 5-day camp marked a significant step toward the future development of Para Biathlon.

The International Biathlon Union extended its invitation to a broad spectrum of participants. Athletes from different categories - Standing, Sitting, and VI (Visually Impaired) - were given a unique platform to hone their skills. Alongside them, coaches from various national federations gathered to exchange insights and strategies.

But the camp was not limited to athletes and coaches alone. The IBU went a step further by inviting a medley of experts from various fields: researchers dedicated to sport and para sport innovations, experienced event organizers, meticulous referees, adept rifle manufacturers, and representatives from National Federations (NFs). The inclusion of such diverse expertise showcased IBU's dedication to building a comprehensive foundation for Para Biathlon. With representation from nations such as Germany, Great Britain, Canada, France, the USA, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, and Sweden, the camp boasted an international flavor.

Secretary General Max Cobb expressed the significance of this initiative:

I believe para biathlon holds a promising future. Through our collaboration with FIS and our broadcasting partners, we have the opportunity to significantly boost the sport's visibility, drawing in more enthusiasts and fans. It's genuinely thrilling to watch!

Expertise was brought in by the likes of Dimitrije Lazarovski, the Para Snow Sport Director from FIS; Hans Peter Neeser, the Para CC & BT Expert from Switzerland; Jens Schjerven from Norway's national federation, and expert contributions from Sweden's Craig Staunton and Norway's Cecilia Severin.

The equipment and technology aspect was represented by Marko Kurvinen, CEO of Biathlon Targets, and Petri Matikainen, CEO of Eco-aims.

At the heart of the camp was a dual objective. For the athletes and coaches, it was about intensive training sessions, skill enhancement, and exposure to high-level competition standards at the iconic Ruhpolding venue. For the IBU and the assembled experts, the goal was profound - to immerse themselves in the intricacies of Para Biathlon, to understand its nuances, challenges, and potentials, and to chart a roadmap for the sport's future.

Meetings among the IBU representatives, experts, coaches, and athletes revolved around critical topics: evaluating the current status of the sport, understanding the determinants of performance, brainstorming educational activities, diving into research, and outlining the structures of NFs, among others.

IBU President Olle Dahlin said about the Camp:

I'm delighted to be a part of this camp. When the IPC approached us, we immediately expressed our enthusiasm to oversee the governance of para biathlon. It's crucial for the sport's inclusion and diversity!

This trailblazing camp has set a precedent for capacity building and signifies the beginning of a new chapter for the development of Para Biathlon. As the participants return to their respective nations and roles, they carry with them newfound knowledge, inspiration, and an unwavering commitment to the future of Para Biathlon.

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