German biathlon athletes Kati Wilhelm and Magdalena Neuner were treated like celebrities when they visited Mamquam Elementary School, Thursday (March 19).
The biathletes are actually bonafide celebrities in Europe. Neuner is the youngest triple-World Champion in biathlon ever. Wilhelm is known more for her bright coloured hair but she is also a five-time biathlon World Champion.
The sport draws up to 15,000 people to European events but in Canada biathlon's popularity ranks somewhere behind badminton and lawn bowling. At Mamquam Elementary the sport is very popular.
"We have been studying them and it was fun making all the posters for their arrival. It is really cool doing all this research and finally getting to meet them," said Cameron. "When I grow up, I want to go to the Olympics for biathlon."
Since the Nordic venue in the Callaghan Valley opened, students at Mamquam have become fans of biathlon.
"Over the last two years students have been learning a lot about biathlon," said Charlene Verbeek, teacher.
For student Kathy Cameron, the visit from the German athletes was a thrill and an inspiration.
The biathlon curriculum includes everything from researching biathletes to bean-bag demonstrations in the schoolyard. Verbeek said a couple of students had a chance to fire a rifle at the biathlon range last year,
When the Germans arrived at the Mamquam Elementary, they were greeted with enthusiastic flag waving and cheers. The students also sang the Canadian anthem and presented the athletes with flowers and gifts.
It was a day that Neuner says she will not soon forget.
"It was an honour for us to visit the school and see so many students excited about biathlon," Neuner said.
Perhaps the excitement at Mamquam Elementary inspired the German athletes to perform. Germany won a women's biathlon World Cup relay Saturday, holding off China and Russia.
Mamquam elementary students supported by the Callaghan Valley Local Organizing Committee's (CALOC) Biathlon Bus program were also able to see the German athletes and the rest of the international field in action at the event later in the week.
"We appreciated the support that enabled all of our students to watch the spring races this week," Verbeek said.