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    Wednesday, November 19, 1997

    Biathletes search for snow

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      Canada's rifle and ski brigade has invaded Norway.
     The national biathlon team, which includes three-time Olympic medallist Myriam Bedard, was forced to leave a planned training camp in Silver Star, B.C., last week because of a lack of snow.
      Alternative plans were arranged quickly and the squad of 20 athletes, as well as coaches and trainers were flown 11,000 kilometres to Dombas, Norway for 2 1/2 weeks of training and team selections.
      SNOW JOB
     Biathlon Canada executive director Terry Sheahan said yesterday that conditions in Dombas are good, but the cost of having to switch camps at the last minute is a huge financial hardship for the cash-starved federation.
     "It's $25,000 more than the camp was originally budgeted for," Sheahan said. "A significant expenditure, but to be quite honest, the money that we spent already in the summer with two training camps on the glacier in Austria, well, we didn't want to lose the effect of getting on snow early."
     The team travelled to the Dachstein glacier, near Ramsau, Austria twice in the summer and Sheahan said losing on-snow training at this point, with the World Cup season scheduled to begin Dec. 6-7 in Lillehammer, Norway, would have been a minor disaster.
     "As much as our summer training was good, you still have to get on snow early enough to get the full feel of the effects of skiing again, because even roller-skiing just doesn't have the same effect on the body that skiing on snow does," he said.
     The move means the team will be away from home for more than a month.
     After the final team selections are made on Nov. 30, it will move to Lillehammer for the opening World Cup event and continue in Europe until Dec. 22. Sheahan sees a silver lining in the extended trip.
     "I think this will make us that much more prepared for the first couple of World Cups," he said, adding that the Canadian squad usually gets off to a slow start in the season, largely because of jet lag. "And the early World Cups for us this year are of great importance because we still have to qualify a couple of athletes for the Olympics."
     Sheahan said the Dombas site has a 20-lane range, 25 kilometres of trials and, most importantly, lots of snow.
     Bedard, 27, is the only member of the Canadian squad who already has qualified for the Nagano Games. Bedard, a native of Loretteville, Que., won two gold medals at the 1994 Olympics.