Sault Ste. Marie’s André and Cassandra Breckenridge have a sibling rivalry over who is better using a set of skis and a rifle.
The brother and sister were just two of 200 athletes who attended the 2015 Cadet Biathlon Northern Ontario Area Competition at the Algoma Rod & Gun club on Saturday and Sunday.
The competition was an ‘Olympic Style’ biathlon event where athletes skied 1-2 km loops and, using .22 caliber rifles, shot 4.5 centimetre diameter falling-plate targets.
The event drew Sea, Army, and Air Cadets from as far as Red Lake, Renfrew, and Kapuskasing.
André, 17, is in the 155 Borden Gray Air Cadet Squadron and his younger sister Cassandra, 13, is in the 2310 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.
Because he’s a faster skier, André can finish a loop “a couple minutes” faster than his sister.
However, she’s a more accurate marksman.
“I’m better at shooting because I take my time on the range. I like to look around and examine the conditions. When I come out of the trail I’m out of breath and I calm myself down and then I can shoot and it works almost every time. I also talk to myself - our coach told me to do that. I just encourage myself and say things like ‘Yeah, I can do this’ and ‘Let’s go!’ and it works, “ said Cassandra.
Cassandra is trying to catch up to her older brother in terms of speed but she said he’s taller and has a well developed technique.
“It’s possible that she can catch up, but I don’t think I’m going to let her,” said André with a confident smile.
Cassandra competed in the Senior age class while André competed in the older Youth class.
The brother and sister train about four days a week and enjoy having an activity that keeps them active in the usually less-active winter months.
To continue training in the summer they go running at Hiawatha Highlands, bike the hub trail, and roller-ski.
André and Cassandra first got into biathlon through Cadets Canada and were strongly influenced by their father, Major Pierre Breckenridge, who has maintained courses and run competitions “for years” and was the Chief of Competition during the weekend event.
Cassandra has no plans to join the military and André isn’t sure yet but both of them think highly of their experience with cadets.
“You get to learn about a lot of things. There’s different competitions like orienteering, biathlon, band competitions, and also summer camp opportunities where you can go to White Horse or another country if you’re interested, “said Cassandra.
Winners from the weekend are proceeding to the provincial-level Regional Cadet Biathlon on February 13-14, also at the Algoma Rod & Club.
Both Cassandra and André won medals over the weekend, however, advancement to the provincial competition is based on a team-aggregate score and so only Cassandra will be moving forward this year.
If Cassandra and her teammate succeed at the provincial level they will then go on to the National Cadet Biathlon competition in Val Cartier, Quebec.
Sault Ste. Marie’s Seth Mason, Maxwell Robinson, and Simon Beckett will also be progressing to the provincials.
Capt. Roy Harten said that cadet biathletes typically group-train about once a week while many of them supplement this with training outside of Cadets.
Harten said that the cadet biathlon program is of a high caliber and has produced Olympic athletes like Jean-Philippe Le Guellec and double gold-medalist Myriam Bedard.
Cadets Canada is open to any youth aged 12-18.
The cadets often provide equipment for activities like biathlon if needed and most of the expenses for events are paid for by the organization.
“Cadets is an opportunity for young people to have fun, a chance to challenge themselves, to learn new things in a safe environment, and everyone is treated equally,” said Harten.