An Inuk biathlete from Greenland accomplishes a ‘remarkable feat’ at Beijing Olympics

The 20-year-old Utareq Slettemark, was the only woman to shoot ‘clean’ in two events, said a Biathlon Canada spokesperson.

By Madalyn Howitt, Nunatsiaq News - February 11, 2022
Ukaleq Astri Slettemark of Greenland reacts during the Women’s 7.5 kilometer biathlon sprint at the National Biathlon Center of Zhangjiakou, China on February 11, 2022. (Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters)

An Inuk biathlete from Greenland is garnering praise online for an impressive showing at her first Olympics, after shooting “clean” through two events this week.

Ukaleq Slettemark, 20, was born in Nuuk, Greenland, and is competing with Team Denmark in biathlon at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Contestants race on skis through a cross-country trail, with stops along the way to shoot at targets.

In her two events, the women’s 12.5 km individual race and the 7.5 km sprint, Slettemark did not miss any shooting targets on either course.

The first event on Monday had four bouts of shooting five targets, and the second on Friday had two bouts of shooting five targets, meaning Slettemark successfully shot 30 targets total.

Mitch Kaufman is the high performance and office coordinator for Biathlon Canada. In an email to Nunatsiaq News he explained that shooting “30 for 30” means that Slettemark shot “clean” through the first two biathlon events.

“Shooting clean through the first two events is a remarkable feat,” he said, pointing out that Slettemark is the only woman in the 2022 Games so far to shoot clean through both races.

This means that she did not have a one-minute penalty imposed during the individual race, or have to ski a penalty loop during the sprint race, Kaufman said.

Slettemark’s performance got attention from fans on social media. Greenlandic artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, who lives in Iqaluit, congratulated Slettemark on her “outstanding debut” and said “the whole of Inuit Nunaat is cheering for her” in a tweet.

Slettemark ended up finishing 53rd in the individual event and 65th in the sprint, but at 20 years old, likely has many years ahead of her to develop her skills on the trail.

Along with representing Greenland at the Beijing Games, CBC reported that Slettemark also helped design the uniforms worn by the Danish biathlon team, which featured Inuit tattoo lines, or tunniit, in the pattern of the suit.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games will conclude on Feb. 20. Indigenous-languages coverage of the Olympics this year includes Inuktitut for all of the women’s and men’s hockey games.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Ms. Slettemark’s first name. The story has been updated to correct this error.