Nordic Skiing: From Novice team to World Championship course
The Nordic Skiing season started in mid-November for the 1 R WELSH team. A team of 8 deployed to Idre-Fjall in Sweden for the pre-competition training package organised by Infantry Nordic. There were some familiar faces in the team who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team, notably Cpl Morris of B Coy who is also a Nordic Skiing instructor having done 7 seasons previously. These were joined by 6 of the team who had never heard of Nordic Skiing!
Idre-Fjall, Sweden was the perfect setup for a Nordic Skiing camp, it was a leading venue with perfect snow conditions and a state-of-the-art range complex. The camp was three weeks long with some of the best instructors around, several of them were ex winter Olympians. Mantas Strolia represented Lithuania in Pyong-Chang the most recent winter games and was a firm favourite of the Royal Welsh team!
The winter camp took the team from learning the very basics of Nordic skiing to being able to compete in races by the end of the package. Training was intense with only 1 day off a week and skiing for up to 5 hours cross country a day; this coupled with shooting practice made for an extremely arduous but rewarding time. The race courses in Idre-Fjall were some of the hardest we would experience all season, very technical and hilly with several the uphill segments reaching over 16%!
After the Christmas break we made our way to Bessans in France where the team competed in the Infantry Championships. The championships comprised of 4 races which included a 15km Classic, a 4 x 5km classic relay, 10km individual Biathlon and finished off with a 4 x 7.5km Biathlon relay. The team achieved some great individual and team results and overall saw us place joint 3rd.
With a joint third under our belts, the competition got hotter as we moved the Army Divisional Championships in Serre Chevalier, France. Our team of determined novice Royal Welsh soldiers here created the chance to qualify for the Army, British and Inter Services Championships held in Ruhpolding, Germany. The race preparation became more meticulous, tactics and strategy came into play, and the team started to believe that we could do it. After the final race which followed the same format as the Infantry Championships, we had qualified for the Army Championships.
This was the first time in 8 years that the Royal Welsh had qualified for these Championships and the hard work and hours of preparation for each race that was put in certainly paid off; qualifying was certainly a just reward. The team qualified just outside of the top 10 with the best of the Army teams being placed in our Divisional competition.
After a 10-hour drive through Italy and into Germany we arrived at what can only be described as Nordic Skiing paradise, Ruhpolding. There is very few places that rival Ruhpolding in terms of infrastructure, atmosphere and skiing conditions and it was here the best teams in the Army, RAF and Navy would compete over a 3 week period. The team arrived just after the International Biathlon World Cup was held at the Chiemgau-Arena with tens of thousands of spectators flocking to the area to watch the best of the best compete.
The setup of the Army Championships was like nothing the team had experienced before, there were twice as many races as the previous Infantry and Divisional Championships and some of the races were twice as long. The team really enjoyed the experience that competing in such a prestigious event brought with it.