Biathletes on the firing line at competitions in Switzerland attended by local biathlete Cole Bender. (Contributed photo)

Swiss trip first of many planned by local biathlon skier

Cole Bender credits father for his competitive development

Local biathlon athlete Cole Bender’s recent trip to compete in Switzerland is just the first of many he expects to take to Europe and beyond as he hones his skiing and shooting skills at the international level.

Skiing since he was seven, Bender is another one of the young skiers to come from the ranks of the Omineca Ski Club.

Now training near Vernon with the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre’s high performance ski and biathlon team, Bender came to national attention in 2017 when he won a bronze medal at the Canadian Biathlon Championships.

“This put me on the National Under 20 (U20) Development Team and gave me training opportunities with Biathlon Canada. I have been on this team ever since as I medaled at the national level again in 2018 and 2019,” Bender explains of his current status.

His trip to Switzerland solidified last December in Canmore, Alberta at a Biathlon Canada qualifier where the top four male youth and top four female youth were invited.

“I won two golds (individual and pursuit) and one bronze (sprint) and qualified to attend the Youth World Biathlon Championship that was held [two weeks ago] in Lenzerheide, Switzerland,” he said.

With his goal fixed on international competition, the number of races he enters has increased.

“When I was still in high school, I raced about 12 times per year, but now I’m doing many more. This year, I will be doing about 16 biathlon competitions and six cross-country ski races in BC, Alberta and Quebec,” he said.

In getting to where he is now, Bender firmly credits his dad, Wes Bender.

“Ever since I started biathlon 10 years ago, dad started taking coaching courses all over the province to be as helpful as he could be in developing my skills,” Bender continued.

“He has been to practically all of my races coaching me and waxing my skis. He always encouraged me to be the best that I could and to have fun racing. It is no exaggeration to say that without my dad at my side volunteering all his time that there’s no way I would be the athlete I am today.”

Competing as Bender does requires considerable financial resources and like a lot of skiers, family members play a big role.

“My parents have been supporting the vast majority of the costs and using a lot of their time to take my sister and I to competitions and training camps. The Omineca Ski Club, which has amazing trails and a state of the art biathlon range, has provided travel assistance to attend Nationals. Rossignol now sponsors a large part of my ski equipment,” he said.

“My trip to Switzerland was made possible with the support of the Chinook Community Forest, the Burns Lake Community Forest, the Omineca Ski Club and the Burns Lake Fire Rescue. I am very, very grateful to these sponsors. It has been a dream of mine to go compete in Europe and these amazing sponsors made it come true.”

A high school graduate last June, Bender worked for the provincial Wildfire Management Branch as a junior initial attack crew member, providing a double benefit in that it kept him fit and he earned money to finance training full time.

“I am hoping to work with the Wildfire Management Branch again this summer to stay fit, work outside, contribute to resource protection and management and earn money to continue to train and compete,” he said.

In evaluating his own skills, Bender regards himself a strong shooter, particularly in longer competition with four shooting bouts.

“I’ve also done quite well as the anchor on relay teams as I like chasing others and make up a lot of time for my teammate,” he said.

Bender also explains his motivations directly: “To push myself to the limit and see where I stake up against the best in the world as well as supporting Canada and representing my country.”

And while Bender is focused on his next steps, he’s quick to talk about his home region.

“In northern BC, and here in the Lakes District, we have great recreation areas, big snow falls and an amazing ski trail systems at the Omineca Ski Club,” Bender said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

The Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP calling for halt on sport fishing licenses to out-of-province fishers

Bachrach and Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns co-signed the letter to the Minister of Fisheries

Kitimat LNG Canada worker tests positive for COVID-19

The company announced the positive case to its workers on March 28

Bachrach to donate salary hike to community organizations

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP among growing list of MPs giving raise away amid economic crisis

Governments close doors in Lakes District area

Employees of companies across the province have been laid off in the… Continue reading

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

How to cope with your mental health during a global pandemic

Becca Shears, clinical counsellor in Vanderhoof speaks about ways to deal with stress and anxiety during this time.

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Most Read