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Bob Bentley has done just about everything for the sport of biathlon on P.E.I. – from spending his own money driving across the Maritimes and picking up equipment to coaching and serving in administrative capacities.
It is because of this dedication that Bentley received the President’s Award during the 47th annual Sport P.E.I. Annual Amateur Sport Awards recently at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.
“When you think about biathlon, you think of Bob,” said Sport P.E.I. senior sport co-ordinator Lynn Boudreau. “He gave everything he had. At that point, he had no kids competing, and he had nobody in it.
“It was a love of the sport and wanting to see it grow. That was inspiring. You just felt so grateful to have him around.”
“When you think about biathlon, you think of Bob. He gave everything he had. At that point, he had no kids competing, and he had nobody in it. It was a love of the sport and wanting to see it grow. That was inspiring. You just felt so grateful to have him around.”
- Lynn Boudreau
Bentley, who lives in New Glasgow, said he was shocked to receive the recognition. He deflected praise off himself, stressing it is a team effort and recognizing the hard work many people have invested into the organization.
Bentley is pleased with the growth of biathlon on P.E.I., where programs are available for kids to adults.
Bentley said he loves watching young athletes progress in the sport.
“Kids grow and develop skills at different times in their life,” he said. “Some kids are natural skiers, some kids are natural shooters, but all kids eventually pick it up, and it’s wonderful to see that spark; that moment, when they realize, ‘That’s how it’s done; now I understand it; now I get it'.
“To see those kids out there competing against each other and trying to do their best, it’s amazing. When we are out skiing on a Wednesday night with lights on, and the kids are skiing the trails, it could be minus 15, and it doesn’t bother them a bit; they love it. The parents are out there watching, and they say, ‘This is the best thing ever'.
“I know it’s not hockey, and we can’t compete with the large sports in terms of numbers, but in terms of the enjoyment level, there are a lot of kids having a great time with this sport.”
Boudreau has first-hand knowledge of Bentley’s contributions. Her two sons, Andre and Lucas Boudreau, competed in biathlon.
“Bob, over the years, spent lots of time and also lots of his own money purchasing equipment so that the younger biathletes, the Bears, would have equipment at a reasonable price or no price,” said Boudreau. “He worked countless hours making sure the wax huts were available to be used so that kids could learn how to wax their skis, store their skis, store rifles. The amount of time he spent was unreal.”
Boudreau recalled when Biathlon P.E.I. hosted the Atlantic championships at Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park at Brookvale. It was storming, and everyone was leaving to beat the weather. Boudreau said Bentley did not leave right away because he was trying to finish a few things up. He stayed and ended up getting stuck, resulting in him having to spend the night at the lodge.
“He got home in the morning for a quick shower and a cup of coffee, and he was back to do it all again,” said Boudreau.
Bentley became associated with the cadet program in 1999.
“The cadet program has been involved with the sport of biathlon for several years," said Bentley. "When I took over, there was no one really still involved with the biathlon program or the marksmanship program.
"I’ve been a runner for quite a number of years, and I’ve done cross-country skiing. I was in the military back many years ago, so I was used to using rifles; I was used to cross-country skiing and good physical fitness. So, I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take on those programs'.
“That’s how I started, just through the cadet program, and it evolved from that.”
Biathlon P.E.I. has seen a lot of growth and programs evolve in the last 15 years. Bentley feels the organization is on the right track and sees the sport continuing to grow.
"Plus, with the Canada Winter Games that are coming here in 2023, there is a lot of development work that is being done at the Brookvale Nordic site in preparation for that," said Bentley
Bentley is now proud to be sharing the sport with his family. His grandsons – 13-year-old Hudson Haltli and 10-year-old Declan Haltli – are biathlon participants. His daughter, Erin Bentley, and her husband, Brad Haltli, are coaching.
“This is such a family sport,” said Bentley. “My family is an example of this, where I started it, got my grandsons in and recruited my daughter and her husband as coaches.
“That happens with a number of families where their kids become involved in the program, the parents come out and decide they are going to ski, they show interest, we bring them on as coaches and give them training, and they follow their kids through the programs into the higher levels of training. And before you know it, they are qualified coaches as well.
"It’s an outdoor sport and is such a healthy way to exercise.”
Passion for the sport
Boudreau described Bentley as a “very humble” individual. She added his passion for biathlon was evident during his acceptance speech.
She said he didn’t speak long, but he spoke from the heart and very precisely.
“Even when I contacted him to let him know he was going to be the recipient of this award, he was like, ‘It’s so great for the athletes and coaches'," said Boudreau. "I was like, ‘No Bob, this one is for you'.”
Prince Edward Islanderer is no stranger to Biathlon Canada
Bob Bentley’s contribution to the sport of biathlon on P.E.I. has also garnered national recognition.
The recipient of the Sport P.E.I. President's Award, Bentley is the only person to have won the June Hooper Memorial Award twice – in 2009 and 2018. The national award is presented to a builder of the sport of biathlon in Canada.
“I guess the original reason was our start-up of Biathlon P.E.I. first of all,” said Bentley. “It actually started off pretty quickly, and our numbers started to increase very quickly. We ended up competing at the national level on many occasions and had some fine athletes.”
Bentley also served as a board member with Biathlon Canada for a period of time.
“That was a good opportunity to understand where the other provinces were in the development of their sport and to get a more national perspective,” said Bentley. “That was an interesting experience as well.”
Jason Simmonds is The Guardian's sports reporter.