Hay River helps out as Russian biathletes land without guns

Hay River residents rounded up spare rifles to help Russian biathletes barred from taking their weapons to the Arctic Winter Games.

Russian athletes from the Yamal Peninsula were reportedly forced to leave their guns behind in Moscow following a paperwork mix-up.

Arctic Winter Games organizers in Hay River received a call from the Russian team late on Friday night. Within 24 hours, residents had produced more than a dozen rifles for the arriving team to use.


“Initially, they were hoping we would be able to come up with eight rifles,” Chuck Lirette – who is running the biathlon shooting range at the Arctic Winter Games – told Cabin Radio.

“But we actually managed to come up with 16 rifles, mostly from the Hay River biathlon club with a few sent in from Fort Smith and a few private rifles from Hay River.

“Lots of people stepped up to help out. The Russian team was certainly quite happy. I know I got a big smile and a thumbs-up from one of the guys.”

The Yamal athletes will still be at a slight disadvantage, as North American rifle manufacturers differ from those they are used to back home.

“It’s like comparing a Dodge to a Chevy,” said Lirette.


But Milena Tsaranenko, a Russian ski biathlon competitor from the town of Labytnangi, said she and her team-mates were grateful for the last-minute help.

“On behalf of Yamal, we want to thank the organizers here,” 16-year-old Tsaranenko told CBC through an interpreter. “To get us that many guns in such a short period of time … it’s a big deal for us.”