In the first in a new series of interviews with young biathletes Biathlon23 talked to the USA’s Maddie Phaneuf about her experiences in the sport so far. Maddie is 19 and was born in Virginia and now lives in Lake Placid. She had a great Youth/Junior World Championships in Presque Isle and I am looking forward to seeing what she can achieve this season.
You can follow Maddie on Twitter: @MaddieBiathlete, find her on Facebook and I highly recommend reading her blog:
Biathlon is not that popular in America, cheerleading is! How did you escape the pom-poms to become a biathlete?
It’s funny because I actually started out dancing and doing ballet when I was younger, but then my family and I moved to my current hometown (in New York State) and they did not have a good dance program there. They did have a lot of snow and skiing though, so that’s when I learned how to ski…and eventually picked up biathlon.
How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?
Currently, I am not doing full-time school, but instead I am just doing a few online college classes. So during my down time from training I work on my school. It seems to be working well, and I will be done with the classes by the time the race season begins. For my social life, most of my friends are within the biathlon community, so it is very easy to continue that social life during training and competitions. Although, I do have friends from high school that are not in biathlon, and it’s a bit harder to keep up with their lives. Usually if I am home for a while I try to hang out with them and catch up, otherwise I just see what they are up to by checking their Facebook. If I were not training, I would definitely have more of a social life, and sometimes I miss that. I usually cannot just meet up with a friend for the weekend, or stay out too late because of training, which can be not so fun.
Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?
Yes, I will be competing in Raubichi! I am very excited to compete in my second ever World Youth/Junior Championships. It will be interesting to see how different the competition is compared to last season in the USA, and now this year as a Junior rather than a Youth. The selection criteria for my country (USA) is that we have a set of three races in December over a week. To make the team you have to be a certain percent back from the winner of each race, and they count the two best of three races. Sean Doherty and I have pre qualified for these races because of our performance at the last World Youth/Junior Championships, so we will not be competing at the selection races.
Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?
I receive some funding, but currently unsure on how much funding I will receive this season. I did get a good deal from Rossignol on my equipment, but I pay for my equipment myself with the help of my parents. With travel my parents help a lot, because I do not have a job because of training…so I don’t have an income. Also, for training, I live in Lake Placid, NY at the Olympic Training Center with the National Team, so our housing and food is all paid for…so training is basically free, which is very helpful.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?
I think the best part about being a biathlete is that I get to travel around the world and meet people from different cultures while doing the thing I enjoy most! There really aren’t many things that make being a biathlete a bad thing. Maybe the worst thing about being a biathlete would be having to carry your large ski bag and rifle case while traveling in the airport…which can be tiring and take a long time.
If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?
If I could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, I would want to be able to look as beautiful as Gabriela Soukalova does when she’s competing. It’s impressive how she can look so pretty while competing and win! I don’t know how she does it…but it’s a skill I’d like to have. I’m already a natural blonde, so I’m part-way there!
What would you like to change about biathlon? (the rules, equipment, schedule etc).
I don’t think there is really anything I would choose to change about biathlon. Maybe the only thing would be for the relay, if a team does not have 4 people, they could use one of their teammates twice. I know this is an issue for the USA Women’s team this season, because they will only have three women competing on the first World Cup races. They all really want to compete in the relays this season, but they do not have enough women, so it would be cool if they could race Susan, Hannah, Annelies, Susan.
Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)
Steve Prefontaine, I have been inspired by him since I was younger. I was more into running before biathlon, and he was a phenomenal track star. I would watch the movie Prefontaine on repeat, and know his story as well as I know my story! To be as good as an athlete as he was and to have the passion for a sport like he did for running, would mean everything to me.
To learn more about Steve Prefontaine see his website: http://prefontainerun.com/index.php
What’s your typical day like?
Well, my typical day is as follows:
1)Wake up 7:00
3)Morning training 9:00
7)Afternoon training 15:30
You are on a team with Susan Dunklee, Hannah Dreissigacker and Annelies Cook. Do they help you with tips and advice or are they super competitive and don’t want you to steal their place in the team?! 😉
It has been a great experience training with Susan, Annelies, and Hannah after watching them compete on the World Cup and looking up to them the past few years. They have been extremely helpful! If I ever need help with anything or if I ever have a question they are always there for me. I don’t think they are too worried about me stealing their place on the team, because they are all so much older than I am. I am still only 19 and in my developing years, they are each in their late 20’s early 30’s and have been in this sport longer than me! I also don’t see them as the type of people that are super competitive when it comes to teammates. They are competitive when they need to be, during training and competitions, but when you need help or are just hanging out as a team, they are all so friendly and caring. It has been a fun experience, and I’m excited to see how they do this season!
Does your rifle have a name?
It currently does not, but I’ll take suggestions!! I never thought about naming my rifle before…do people actually do that?
Describe yourself in three words.
I am…happy, outgoing, determined.
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon track: Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Franziska Hildebrand, GER
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Relay
Favourite/best race of your career so far? 4th place (shooting clean!) in Youth Women Sprint at Youth/Junior World Championships 2014 in Presque Isle, Maine USA
Favourite food: Chocolate
Favourite singer/band: Vance Joy
Favourite film: Into The Wild
Favourite sports team: USA Women’s Soccer
Favourite TV show: The Vampire Diaries (guilty pleasure)
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