[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Empire State Games — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009

Shooting for gold
Darwin’s evolution as a biathlete

By Saranac Hale Spencer

LAKE PLACID — At the mouth of a wooded path, paved with crisp white snow, Darwin Roosa stops and pulls the rifle off his back.  A few deep breaths calm his nerves before he shoots.

“You have to put the two together,” he said of skiing and shooting after the biathlon race at the Empire State Games on Saturday.  For the last 27 years, he’s worked on keeping his heart rate and breathing down after the roughly 10K cross-country ski trail so that he can focus on the targets.

Growing up in Northville, Roosa used to hunt with his father.  But, he said, familiarity with guns isn’t necessary to start the sport.  His club, Saratoga Biathlon Club, offers clinics several times a year to teach beginners.

The number of interested people has remained steady over the last couple of decades, he said, but he’d like to see those numbers increase.

Annie Jardin is among the younger generation of biathletes — the 17-year-old took a gold medal in the scholastic division of the sprint race on Friday.

“It’s amazing,” she said of being awarded the gold.  Jardin’s short sentences are often enunciated through a quick smile and punctuated with giggles.

“She medaled summer and winter,” said her father, Ron Jardin, who stood by.  He introduced her to biathlon, she said, as he did with hunting.  Jardin rattled off a list of animals that she’s hunted — ducks, geese, pheasants, deer — and added, “I shot a bear when I was 12.”

Its skin is now spread across her bedroom floor as a rug, she said, and it may make the trip with her this fall to Paul Smith’s College, where she plans to study wildlife management and be on the Nordic ski team.

Since her high school, in Mexico, N.Y., doesn’t have a ski team, her father drives her 22 miles to Camden so that she can practice on its team, he said.  He also got her started in the junior trap league, where she was grouped with four boys.  “She started beating the boys,” he said, “so they moved her up and she started beating the men.”

Jardin then went on to compete in the USA Shooting National Championships, where she earned a spot in the Junior Olympics for international trap shooting.

Although she’s clearly excelled in summer sports, Jardin says she prefers biathlon and skiing.  “I love the winter,” she explained simply.

Biathlon originated with the Finnish Ski Guard, Roosa said, when Finland wanted to defend its border against Russia.  The sport was formed after the practical application had begun.  “As part of training,” Roosa said, “they would have competitions — skiing fast and shooting.”

The sport came to U.S. shores when the Army started training soldiers for it, Roosa said, adding that New York’s 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, was involved.  To this day, a number of biathletes serve in the National Guard, which has a team, he said.

While Roosa, 58, took home a bronze medal for Saturday’s pursuit race, done in pairs, the Altamont resident prefers the individual race, for which he won a gold medal on Friday.  “I can ski at my own pace,” he said.  “The relay is so furious, so fast.”

It’s easy to push yourself too hard in the race and then miss the targets, he said, “You have to figure out how to budget your energy.”

Of the dozen or so biathlons that Roosa competes in, he said of the Empire State Games’ course, “This is the Olympic trail,” and there are a few “hills that really take your breath away.”

[Return to Home Page]