Biathletes Ariel and Emmanuel Bussani of Aldergrove are competing at the national championships this week in Quebec.

From down on the farm to national championships

A young sibling duo from the rural countryside area of Aldergrove are dedicated to the sport of skiing - and biathlon.

A young sibling duo from the rural countryside area of Aldergrove are dedicated to the sport of skiing.

Emmanuel Bussani, now 14, has been pursuing the sport of biathlon for the past three years. He has won medals at provincial and national events, and watching him compete has inspired his younger sister Ariel, 12, to follow his example this past year.

Emmanuel won another bronze medal at the BC Winter Games in Penticton last weekend, and while Ariel was too young to compete at this event she will be joining him in competition at the national biathlon championships in Quebec this week, March 2-7.

Both of the siblings are members of the West Coast Nordic club, as well as the 861 Silver Fox air cadets based in Abbotsford. Both of these organizations have programs for members to practice and compete in the sport, which mixes cross-country skiing and target shooting.

Their coach is Peter Algra of Abbotsford, a man very dedicated to the sport of biathlon. Algra’s son recently won a full scholarship to UNBC as a biathlete and now his daughter is following in the same footsteps as her brother.

“We’re lucky to have the facilities, including a shooting range at Whistler, within a 200 kilometre range,” says Lori Bussani, the fully supportive mother of Emmanuel and Ariel. Lori is also a former personal trainer.

“My husband and I regularly take our family up to Cypress to ski but Peter (Algra) often loads up a van of kids to take up to Whistler for practices, and he also coaches the team.”

The 15 team members are members of both the West Coast Nordic and 861 Silver Fox cadets, aged 12 to 18, and their programs complement each other.

Emmanuel and Ariel have been training every day for the past year to qualify for the nationals. On Mondays and Fridays they practice shooting at the Fish and Game Club range in Abbotsford, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they practice cross-country skiing at Cypress. Wednesday nights it’s training with the air cadets at their facility next to Rotary Stadium, where they run at the track. Then on weekends it’s either races or training at Whistler.

Emmanuel and Ariel worked their way up to the invitation to the nationals through competition at the Fraser Valley Zone event in January and the provincial qualifiers in February.

Each biathlon event involves three or four laps of skiing a 1.5 to 2 kilometre distance, with five shots with a .22 calibre rifle at a 50-metre target between each lap. There are time penalties and penalty laps for missed shots.

“The events are about 25 minutes on average, and 18 minutes is my best time,” says Emmanuel.

“Biathlons are more interesting because you are shooting, and it’s free to air cadets,” says Emmanuel, who has the rank of flight corporal with the Silver Foxes.

And while the “free” aspect is attractive, Emmanuel also works part-time to pay his own way, for his gear and competition fees. He worked at a bakery last summer and currently packs eggs at a chicken farm to raise the money needed.

“We like to instill a work ethic in our children,” says Lori, who home-schools the children at the family’s small farm. “It helps push them through hard things, teaches them to prioritize, to have self-control.”

Both Emmanuel and Ariel also enjoy gymnastics, swimming, music and downhill skiing, and Ariel also enjoys writing.

“I like to write sic-fi, fantasy stories, and I have an author-mentor who is coaching me,” says Ariel.

And both Emmanuel and Ariel hope their pursuit of sport, particularly biathlons, will help them pursue higher education as athletes.

But for now, their eyes are on winning some of the events at the nationals in Quebec this week.

“I just really like to compete,” says Ariel, as Emmanuel nods his head in agreement.

Emmanuel Bussani training in the target shooting aspect of biathlon competition.