One Christmas present arrived a few days early for Simon Long.
The Whistler biathlete will be heading to this season’s BC Winter Games, after qualifying for the competition at an inter-club race at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday (Dec. 16).
With 2018 BC Winter Games action set to take place in Kamloops Feb. 22 to 25, Long, a member of the Sea to Sky Nordics club, is getting ready to face off against some of the province’s best up-and-coming athletes in the 15-and-under competition.
“I didn’t even know about this until a few weeks ago, and then I thought ‘why not,’” said 14-year-old Long, now halfway through his second full season competing in biathlon, of the Winter Games.
Heading into the junior boys event — his first race of the season — Long knew, “people who finished first and second place, they would qualify for the games.”
The Coast Mountain Academy Grade 9 student finished second, behind clubmate Sean Benson of Vancouver.
However, what Long didn’t know is that he had to cross the finish line in a certain amount of time in order to qualify — a fact that certainly would have added a little extra pressure at the start line. “Since there’s only two of us, we couldn’t just get in by default,” he explained.
“Before I did the race, I thought you just had to come first or second. But then after, people were cheering and stuff — more than I thought they would. My coach was like, ‘you got a good enough time’ and explained it,” Long said of his surprise.
Qualifying for the games was particularly exciting for Long, after suffering a setback just a few days prior to the qualification event. “I actually have a hurt leg, which I hurt in gym class at school a few days before,” he explained. “That made it a little harder, but I still made it.”
Long suffered the injury while playing lacrosse in his high school gym. “I jumped to try and catch the ball and I just fell and landed with my leg sideways,” he said. “I couldn’t walk on it for Thursday and Friday, so I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to do well in the race, but it was fine by Saturday.”
Long will continue his current training strategy while hoping to stay injury free in the lead-up to the BC Winter Games. “It’ll be cool to be part of a big event instead of just competing in small races at the clubhouse,” Long said.
The games are set to be the biggest competition Long’s ever attended for the sport, since first getting involved in biathlon a couple of years ago.
After moving to Whistler with his family, “it was winter and I didn’t really have anything to do because I wasn’t involved in any school sports or activities yet,” Long explained.
A school event introduced him to Whistler Sports Legacies’ Olympic Mondays program. Every Monday for several weeks, Long had the opportunity to try out a variety of Olympic winter sports, from ski jumping to luge. “I liked biathlon, I was good at it, so I started doing it,” Long said.
Now, with one full season of racing already under his belt, this winter has so far been “not too different,” Long explained. “I’m still in the same age group, because it’s two years per age group. This year I’m still shooting lying down, but next winter I’m going to be shooting standing up, which is way harder.”