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Henri Lefebvre is betting on the biathlon, long-term
2020-03-26

"The cadets that are doing biathlon are doing it just for fun."

Henri Lefebvre, apparently, is not like most cadets.

The 14 year-old grade nine student at College Notre-Dame is just two years into his biathlon career, if one can call it a career, at this stage of the game.

Still, such has been the exponential progress that he has shown, the top end results, on both the cadet and civilian side of this athletic equation, that Lefebvre feels more than comfortable making a long-term commitment to the sport.

"When I realized I might be good at the sport, and realizing that skiing is a big part of the sport, I joined the ski team (Walden Cross-Country)," he said. Yet it wasn't that element of the duplicity that is the biathlon that initiated his interest.

For those who may not be aware, the biathlon combines both nordic ski as well as marksmenship, typically with an air rifle, a sporting pursuit whose very genesis dates back to a form of military training that first grew to prominence in Scandanavian countries.

"With the cadets, if you want, you can try out the biathlon," said Lefebvre. "I did it because I like shooting, because I hunt, and my grandfather hunts."

Like so many young local lads, Lefebvre would initially be directed towards Canada's national winter past-time, an endeavour that would ultimately prove fruitful in a most unexpected way.

"My hockey background helped with my striding (in skiing), so I didn't start the biathlon or nordic skiing without anything," he said. "I at least had strength in my legs and knew how to stride. That was my base."

"And going up the hills, I have a lot of upper body strength to help me go up the hills. I can give 'er right there."

In his first year competing in the biathlon in 2018-2019, Lefebvre would finish first among the cadets in 8th/9th grade, at provincials, still too young to compete at nationals. He would take the next step this winter, adding a national title to his resume, and placing, impressively, 8th overall in the junior division at OFSAA, all while enjoying one more year of eligibility to climb the ranks.

The truth is that while Lefebvre is more than competitive with the nordic ski elite, in his age group, in Ontario, it is the second phase of the biathlon wherein lies his greatest opportunity for notable growth.

"My shooting is worse, my skiing his better," he stated. "It's always been a challenge for me, but even with the top biathletes, it's hard to bring your heart rate down, especially after you ski two kilometers."

"You need to bring it down to 130 beats, 135 beats (per minute), so that you can start shooting the target." At the upper levels of the sport, a heart rate monitor is an absolute must. At this point, however, Lefebvre must rely on the tricks of the trade that have been shared with him, and others.

"When you get down on the mat, usually you are breathing heavily, because you're tired," he explained. "You want to breathe extra heavily, big deep breaths, to bring your heart rate down."

Next comes a consistent routine, before firing the gun. "It's best to do up, down, up, down, up, shoot - always after the second breath."

Having just competed at the Ontario Winter Games at the end of February, and then cadet nationals, Lefebvre was looking forward to an end of March that would include both the civilian biathlon nationals, and then nordic nationals, in British Columbia.

Though that would not hapen, there is still next year, and the years beyond, to look forward to, with anticipation.

"Next year, I will be a senior in civilian biathlon," said Lefebvre. "This year, I raced up a year, trying to get experience, to get better."

And to compete in the biathlon, not only for fun.

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League