The Olympic sport of biathlon is a family affair for Darcie Morton, who trains at Australia’s only biathlon range, in Victoria’s High Country. 

Story by Sarah Jane Jacob

The bright winter sun dapples through the twisted limbs of snow gums as the petite skier powers up the slope. She slips nimbly past another competitor, and skates towards a station where several officials are waiting. One of them selects a sophisticated-looking rifle from a rack of similar weapons and holds it out to the skier. She scoops it up and smoothly threads her arms through the rifle’s harness as she glides past. 

The skier continues to the shooting range, where numbered mats are laid out 50 metres away from a bank of small metal targets. She unhooks the rifle’s harness from her back and lies down on her stomach, quieting her breath as she aims the rifle and takes her first shot.

Darcie Morton is a member of the small but enthusiastic community of biathletes in Australia. Combining the physically challenging sport of cross-country skiing with the mental focus of target shooting, biathlon has a substantial following in many Northern Hemisphere countries, rating as one of the most popular winter spectator sports in Europe. Mention of our sunburnt country more readily conjures up images of sun-soaked beaches than powdery snowfields, yet the biathlon community here is steadily growing. 

Sixteen-year-old Darcie is only recently back from a series of international competitions, including the Youth Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Norway, in February, where she placed 16th in a field of 50. The experience was challenging but enjoyable. “I remember being completely focused and not as nervous as I probably should have been considering how big the race was,” she says of race day. “It was extremely cold … around –15 degrees Celsius before the start and I had to put tape across my nose and cheeks because in the warm-up I could hardly breathe, let alone feel my face and hands on the downhills, with the ice-cold wind slapping me in the face.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #109

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2016