Nils-Erik Ulset is para-biathlon legend! The 36-year-old Norwegian has competed in 5 Paralympic Games from Salt Lake City 2002 to PyeongChang 2018. He has won biathlon medals at four of those Games including gold in Vancouver in 2010. He has 10 World Championship medals three of which are gold. He was born with a genetic condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease that affects the muscle strength in his legs. He has also been a World and Paralympic Champion in cross-country skiing.
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Why did you become a biathlete?
I have an older brother who started biathlon, and of course since he was a role model for me I had to follow in his steps.
(His brother is John Ola Ulset who represented Norway at IBU World Cup level.)
How did you assess last season? What were you happy with and what disappointed you?
Last season was a little up and down. The good races were very good winning world cup races, taking a medal in the world championship and finishing second in the overall cup. But my main goal was the world championship sprint and being so far from the podium in this race was a disappointment.
The first World Cup this season is in Lillehammer! Are you excited about that? Do you know the course there well?
It will be awesome starting the World Cup in Lillehammer. I know the area well since I lived for 7 years in Lillehammer, but I think we are going to use the FIS world cup tracks which I haven’t tested out yet. But I know they will be tough!
Are you focusing only on biathlon now? Will you do any cross country races this season?
Yes, I’m only focusing on biathlon now. I’ll never do cross country World Cup races again.
How does your impairment affect your skiing?
I have maybe 25% of normal muscle strength in my lower legs and my balance is very bad. So for me the hardest parts are flat areas where you benefit from having good balance. Also very soft(spring) conditions and icy tracks is some thing that I can struggle with.
What have you been doing for summer training? Are training with any of the IBU biathletes this summer?
This summer I have been focusing much more on strength training, a lot of roller skiing and some trail running.
I’m doing all my training camps with the Norwegian development (B-team), this is something that really suits me and helps me a lot in pushing forward.
When Norwegian biathletes retire they seem to become your coach! Lars Berger then Martin Eng. Who will coach you this season – L’Abbe Lund, Svendsen or Bjoerndalen?!!! Seriously though what is it like having ex-biathletes as your coach? How have they helped you?
Well actually Lars Berger is back again as my coach and in previous seasons, especially towards PyeongChang I got a lot of help and advice from Ole Einar. It’s great to have the possibility to ask these athletes for advice and to learn from them.
What are your goals for this season?
The main goal this season is the biathlon World Championships in Østersund.
Do you have a job? If so how do you fit your training around it?
I work part time in a sports shop that specializes in mountain sports like ski mountaineering, climbing and trail running.
Do you have a favourite track? Where is it and why?
My all time favourite tracks are Natrudstilen Sjusjøen, Canmore, Whistler Olympic Park and Nordmarka Surnadal. All these tracks really suit me and my strengths, and are located in really nice places.
Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present/IBU or IPC) and why?
Ole Einar Bjørndalen (of course) and Martin Fourcade. They are both amazing athletes who always push themselves forward and are ahead of everybody in their development as athletes. They are fair athletes who also take a clear stand for clean and fair sports.
Does your rifle have a name?
No I’ve never named any of my rifles.
Describe yourself in three words.
Stubborn, curious and childish.
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): France
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Lukas Hofer
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Norway
Favourite shooting range: Martell
Lucky bib number: Any
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Gregory Vovchinskiy
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Mark Arendz and Benjamin Daviet
Best thing about being a biathlete: You get to ski around and shoot.
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