She’s a pocket rocket from Coleraine who is now the new British Biathlon Union Champion after a gruelling week of action in Germany.
Although small in stature Joanna Brownlow has taken on the best to lift the overall title in this unusual but extremely physically and mentally demanding sport.
Her achievement is even more staggering as she never donned a set of skis until a few years ago.
“I am over the moon to have won,” said Joanna on her return to the UK.
“For the past two years I’ve come in sixth and after a year’s full time training I was determined to make the top three so to get first place is a great achievement.”
The British Biathlon Union (BBU) is the UK National Governing Body (NGB) for the Olympic winter sport of Biathlon, a winter sport which involves cross country skiing with rifle shooting and Joanna, an army Corporal, took it up thanks to a new posting to her Squadron.
“I was based in Colchester serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade,” she explained.
“A new Officer Commanding was posted in to my Squadron. He was a very experienced Nordic (cross country) and Alpine (downhill) skier and had several years of experience competing for the Army. He decided to run a four week introductory course in Norway which I took part in.
“This was my first introduction to Nordic skiing but also to the sport of Biathlon.”
The sport is extremely demanding and Joanna has undergone a gruelling training schedule both in the summer and winter months.
“The training required to be a Biathlete is pretty demanding in itself,” said Joanna.
“You have to push your body to its complete maximum physically but then very quickly drop your heart rate back down to a much slower pace in order to ensure you shoot well.
“Summer training consists of lots roller skiing (which is a bit like roller blading) followed by lots of shooting practice on the ranges. The roller skiing gets your heart rate up and you must practice slowing it down as you come into the range.
“Everyday we do shooting drills to help us keep muscle memory in our arms. We also run, swim, cycle and take part in gym conditioning sessions. All of this gives you an all round high level of fitness which is certainly what is needed to be a successful Biathlon skier.”
Having shown her talents for the sport last year, Joanna was selected for the Army Biathlon Development Squad (ABDS) which aims to take athletes who show promise to develop them into professional athletes with the ultimate goal of being part of the GB Biathlon team.
Joanna took part in intensive training from April 2014 through to October 2014 and she was chosen to attend a GB Team selection camp in Obertillach in Austria.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t successful at the camp this time,” continued Joanna. “So I rejoined my Regimental ski team who were completing pre-season training in Norway.
“From Norway we travelled to Hochfilzen in Austria to take part in the week long Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) championships as a guest team. This was followed by the Divisional Championships in Les Contamines-Montjoie in France. From this first phase four of my team qualified to go on to compete at the Army, Inter Service and National Nordic Ski Championships in held in Ruhpolding, in Bavaria in Germany.
Of course I wanted to perform well for myself and for my team, and winning medals is always a big boost, but the experience of taking part in the sport at this high level and winning is brilliant.”