Just getting to the starting line was a test of fortitude for competitors in Muskoka’s first paintball biathlon.
HITTING THE TARGET.
A participant in the first annual Muskoka Paintball Biathlon, held Saturday at Bondi Village Resort in Dwight, finishes off the paintball part of the race. Organizers were hoping for greater numbers, but the inclement weather made the drive difficult.
On Saturday, competitors found themselves braving high winds and heavy snowfall as they made their way to the event at Bondi Village Resort in Dwight. A joint effort between the resort, Algonquin Outfitters and Bracebridge’s Back Country Paintball, it was the first time the sport was played in a competition in Muskoka.
Although Environment Canada had warned of severe weather the day before, it didn’t stop 15 competitors from hitting the track.
“The course at Bondi Village Resort received nearly 25 centimetres of snow and gale-force winds, and still many competitors braved the bad driving conditions and tough winter conditions to try this new sport,” said Back Country Paintball owner Tony Armstrong.
“The day was a success, proving that Muskoka is ready for this new sport of paintball biathlon, even in the toughest winter conditions.”
Armstrong was inspired to bring the sport to Muskoka after viewing videos of paintball biathlons on YouTube. As an experiment, he launched a trial event at Santa’s Village in December, which drew over 100 participants.
Unlike traditional biathlons, Armstrong has said that paintball biathlons typically have lower startup costs as no special permits are required for competitors. The lack of red tape also makes the sport accessible to younger athletes.
Though a higher turnout was originally expected, event organizers came up with a special prize to honour the competitor with the toughest commute to the starting line.
“The most dedicated award goes to Sherrie Pilger, who drove from Gravenhurst through a blinding snowstorm to be a competitor in the event, and (later) placed fifth in the adult division,” said Armstrong.
In her drive up to Dwight, Armstrong said Pilger got lost in the snowstorm and ended up getting her vehicle stuck. She eventually found her way to the event with the help of passing snowmobilers.
Competitors in the event were grouped into categories according to their age.
In the youngest age category, first place went to eight-year-old Hilda Chan, who navigated the course alongside her father. Dalton Boothby won the age 10 and up category, while David Tapley placed first in the adult division.
In the aftermath of the event, Armstrong said he is hoping to make an even bigger splash with the sport next winter.
“Definitely next year my dream would be to have a whole series,” he said.