I know that at least some of you must have asked that question when you first saw me mention "blind biathlon." Your first reaction was probably horror! Well, here is how it actually works.
First, to put your mind at ease, blind biathletes don't shoot with bullets, pallets or anything else tangible for that matter. We use an Eko rifle, which shoots with an invisible lazer beam. It's really a computer system. Second, we don't use our eyes to aim, we use our ears. The rifle comes with headphones, which emit a beeping sound when the rifle is not aimed at the target. The closer you get to the target, the faster the beeping. Once the sound becomes constant, you're on target. To find the bull's eye, you have to find the highest-pitched tone. And then you pull the trigger. Depending on whether your shot is a hit or a miss, you hear a certain sound, and a green or red light shows up on the target.
Training at the 2009 World Cup in Mt. Washington, photo courtesy of Tim Penney
Obviously, we don't carry the guns on our back as they are connected with lots of wires to the target, the headphones, the screen, etc. We also only shoot prone (lying on our stomach), probably because it would be too hard to find the target if we stand up with the gun. When we get to the shooting range, the gun is pointing roughly in the direction of the target, so we don't have to start searching for it "from scratch."
In most other respects, blind biathlon is quite similar to able-bodied.
And that is basically how it works. This time, good night from Ottawa for real.