ErzurumBlog — Kayaking on Snow? Only in Turkey

This is another in a series of blogs provided by Kelly Lapointe or Syd Brown who recently represented Sports Media Canada as Special Correspondents for the AIPS delegation invited by the Organizing Committee for a tour and inspection of facilities to be used at the XXV FISU Winter Universiade at Erzurum, Turkey from January 27 to February 6.

By Kelly Lapointe, Sports Media Canada Special Correspondent

ERZURUM, TURKEY — The thrill of watching the biathlon was revealed to me during our tour of the Kandilli Ski Resort.

Watching a test event by the Turkish National biathlon men’s and women’s teams was my first time seeing biathlon in person. Combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, it’s a sport full of speed, agility and complete precision – while keeping one’s heartbeat in as much control as possible while firing away.

I was even more amazed that the event proceeded without snow: They used roller skis to navigate the hilly course for the cross-country ski portion, and the athletes threw themselves onto the dirt to shoot at their targets.

During the Universiade, athletes will wear transponders, so information will be available to sports journalists a mere three seconds after the end of a race. The test event was like a seminar to inform and educate the staff as to what will be needed for the Universiade.

The biathlon venue, located on 160 acres — 36 kilometres from Erzurum’s centre, will also be home to the Nordic combined and cross-country ski competitions.

The altitude of the runs varies between 1,713 and 1,767 metres. The venue has 2.5-kilometre, 3.75-kilometre and five-kilometre blue and red courses and two (1.6-kilometre and 1.3-kilometre) sprint courses.

The resort, that will serve as a multi-purpose facility for the community the rest of the year, also includes a cross-country stadium, race management building and service buildings, cabins for each team, ski testing area, warm-up courses, spectators area, tents for VIP, media and parking areas. All courses and the stadium have artificial snow making equipment.

It was at the biathlon that I learned one of my biggest lessons in Turkey.

Rollers replace snow for practice event.

Kayak means “ski” in Turkish. I had seen people wandering around with toques dotted with snowflakes and the word “kayak” and wondered where the heck they kayaked at this time of the year. I only kayak when it’s relatively nice out … in the summer.

So here’s my tip for any Canadian kayakers, don’t enter any Turkish kayak competitions before double-checking whether you’ll be on water or snow!