A passion for success and the determination that’s required is driving local biathlete Emily Dickson to the world stage.
From a start at the age of three and becoming a Jackrabbit with the Omineca Ski Club at the age of eight, Dickson has steadily worked herself up to a spot on Canada’s national biathlon team.
At the age of 12, she became a member of the provincial biathlon development squad, winning a national cross-country skiing title in 2015 and four medals that year at the Canada Winter Games held in Prince George.
And she’s been competing internationally since the age of 15 through appearances at the Youth and Junior World Championships and as a member of the national junior team since 2013.
Her hard work has culminated now with being named to the senior national team, placing her in a wide variety of countries competing against other world-class athletes.
“There are 8-10 World Cup and 8-10 International Biathlon Union Cup events each year — consisting of weeks of 3-4 competitions each. They also participate domestically in some trial competitions (usually held in conjunction with a North American Cup) and if the schedule permits they will try to participate in the Biathlon National Championships,” explains Emily’s mother, Terri, of an extremely busy traveling and competition schedule.
Getting to the international level required Emily to leave Burns Lake in 2013, moving to Prince George to become a student at the inaugural Canadian Sport School from Grade 10 onward. It meant attending school in the mornings and going to the UNBC Sport Centre in the afternoons for intensive physical workouts and more school tutoring. Graduation followed from DP Todd Secondary School in 2015.
Another move followed after graduation, this time to Canmore, Alberta, to train full time with the Biathlon Alberta Training Centre for two years and with the elite RAD (Real Athletic Development) team for one year until being named to the senior national team.
“Honestly, there are just a few simple elements that have driven me through this sport right from the beginning: curiosity and passion,” says Emily of her chosen sport.
“Initially, learning this complex sport sparked enough curiosity — but as I’ve progressed and began competing internationally, the curiosity shifted from learning the intricacies of the sport, to wondering just how high up in the ranks I can push myself.”
Early on in her development, Marvin Gerow and John Howett at the Tweedsmuir Rod and Gun Club taught her to shoot while her father, Bryan Dickson, coached her on the pairing of skiing and shooting.
A setback occurred five years ago when she became ill and was eventually diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, celiac disease.
“It’s been a couple of years of recovery to get her back to peak performance. Her ski-speed is still recovering (celiac causes a lot of inflammation, exhaustion), but she was able to take the time that she was ill to focus on her shooting. As a result it’s now one of her greatest strengths (speed/accuracy and general range time),” notes Terri.
High level competition requires a solid financial footing as well with Terri estimating annual costs approaching $50,000.
“Biathlon is an Olympic sport but it garners very little funding from government. Athletes pay to represent Canada. A typical tour (generally there are three-four per season) is between $3,500-$5,500. A tour lasts two to four weeks depending on locations,” says Terri.
“Additionally, Emily has had to pay team fees for coaching/race support. Up until last year that was about $10,000 a year.”
Emily has had a ski sponsorship with Madshus Skis and for the past two years, a grant from a Petro Canada support program.
“Some years she’s been fortunate to get clothing and cash donations from some local businesses. Aside from that — it’s the bank of mom and dad!” Terri says.
There’s no real off-season at Dickson’s level as she trains 11 months a year. The one off month, April, is spent in general fitness training.
From her young start in learning the intricacies of biathlon and combining it with a passion for the sport, Emily says she’s “left with immense motivation to keep pushing myself on an international level!”