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Canada's female biathletes took off their clothes to be photographed for a calendar to raise both money for their sport and admiration for an athletic woman's body.

Zina Kocher of Red Deer, Alta., Calgary's Sandra Keith, Rosanna Crawford of Canmore, Alta., Megan Imrie of Falcon Lake, Man., and Megan Tandy of Prince George, B.C., launched their 14-month calendar Wednesday by roller-skiing through downtown Calgary wearing shorts, tank tops and race bibs and their rifles strapped to their backs.

The women had printed the words 'power', 'aim', 'bold' and 'focus' down their bare legs. They skied boldly through the noon lunch crowd handing out cards promoting their calendar, which is themed "Bold Beautiful Biathlon."

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"We're not used to taking our clothes off. We're used to keeping our lycra on, but it was a great team-building experience and there was a lot of nervous excitement about it," Kocher said.

They've had 5,000 calendars printed at $25 each, and aim to raise $80,000 to help cover their travel and training expenses heading into the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

The biathletes aren't the first athletes to pose nude for calendars to raise money for their sport or charitable organizations.

Beckie Scott, an Olympic gold medallist in cross-country skiing, and teammate Sara Renner produced a similar calendar in 2001 and support the biathletes' decision to do it.

"As the mother of a daughter, I would be proud to see pictures of these role models on my child's wall as opposed to a synthetically-enhanced Hollywood star," Renner said.

The Canadian women's rugby team has produced a 24-month calendar of players posing nude with rugby balls and Canadian flags placed strategically on their bodies.

An international curling calendar, including Canadians Christine Keshan and Chrissy Cadorin, was released in September.

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The biathletes were photographed in poses demonstrating balance or strength, and in shooting positions.

"We wanted to communicate beautiful bodies, but the beauty of being active, being healthy and being self-confident," Tandy said.

"My family is going to be helping sell the calendar in B.C., so they're in complete support of the whole journey, the whole process and the calendar as well."

Crawford is the younger sister of Chandra Crawford, an Olympic gold medallist in cross-country skiing.

"I was pretty nervous at first," said Crawford. "It's more than just raising money. We're doing this to promote a healthy lifestyle throughout Canada and showing beautiful athletic bodies while doing it.

"Usually I am dressed head to toe in clothing when I'm out there skiing so it was definitely a different experience, but I loved every minute of it."

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Biathlon is a low-profile sport in Canada, ranking somewhere above ski jumping, but well below speed skating and hockey.

The biathletes don't have a team sponsor and lack the international results to draw more funding from Own The Podium.

Kocher's bronze medal in November 2006 was the country's first World Cup medal in the sport in over a decade and the 25-year-old is the only fully-funded athlete on the team.

Own The Podium, the $120-million, five-year plan to get Canada to the top of the medals table at its own Olympics, doles out money based on a sport's potential to win medals.

Biathlon Canada received $287,325 this winter from OTP, compared to the $1.1 million that went to the cross-country ski federation.

"It's time for corporate Canada to really step up and help fund our athletes," Kocher said. "This is a great opportunity for them to be a title sponsor for our team because we don't have one in our journey towards the 2010 Olympics.

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"This money goes towards our team fees, towards a sports psychologist, team camps and even our World Cup tours."

The calendars are on sale at www.boldbeautifulbiathlon.com.

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