Category Archives: Interview

Maija Holopainen: The Interview!

Maija Holopainen is a Finnish biathlete who has recently become a coach. She was born in Liperi on the 22nd of February 1978. She made her World Cup debut in Oestersund in 2002 but now she has become coach of the Finnish Youth National team as well as at a high school in Vuokatti. Here she talks about what it’s like to coach biathlon.

You can follow Maija on Twitter: @MehisMaija

Why did you become a biathlete?

I was a cross country skier and was always better at freestyle because my mum didn’t know how to get my skis to work in classic. I wanted to try biathlon so I didn’t have to race in classic races anymore.

What is your best memory from your biathlon career?

There are a lot of good memories: training camps with the national team and friends, many World cup and IBU cup weeks. But maybe it’s my first two World Cup weeks in December 2002 in Östersund. It’s hard to choose, I have so many good memories with the biathlon family.

When did you become a coach and why did you want to do it?

My first season as a coach was in 2014/15 when I was still training and racing 100%, I only had some junior training camps. But in season 2015/16 I became a full time coach in Vuokatti- Ruka Urheiluakatemia (upper secondary school) and the Finnish biathlon association youth team coach.

I love biathlon and I have done almost nothing but biathlon since 1995, so it was natural for me to change from an athlete to a coach.

Who were your coaches when you were a biathlete? What did you learn from them that you now use as a coach?

I have had many coaches in my long biathlon career. I have learned most from Anatoly Khovantsev, Marko Laaksonen and Toni Roponen.

For example Marko taught me to train like a biathlete, not like a cross country skier or shooter. In Finland we have many good cross country coaches but they forget that we are biathletes.

You are coaching Juniors. Do you enjoy working with the young biathletes?

Yes, I really enjoy working daily with the juniors. It is very inspiring when they learn and progress at something. I think I can and want to help them most in growing as athletes.

How much time do you spend with the biathletes? Do you send them a programme to work through alone or do you see/speak to them every day?

I have some athletes who I help and write personal daily programmes for. I try to be with them as much as possible at training.

We have about 25 biathletes in Vuokatti who we see daily in our training and who we help daily in school time (from mid August to the first weekend in June). They all can get our training programme so we can train together and do some food biathlon training also.

In the Finnish Youth national team there are 10 athletes from our Vuokatti group, so I can see their training also in training camps.

What do you do before, during and after a race as a coach?

It depends whether I am the only coach or if we have two coaches in the races.

If I’m alone, I have to be in the range all the time. Before the race I normally test the skis with the girls and do some wax and grid testing (helping service) and zeroing with athletes, trying to get familiar with the wind. During the race I’m in the range giving some info to athletes or I’m on the skiing loop giving some intermissions or/and wind info from the range.

After the race I go through the race with the athletes, but only if they want to.

Would you like to be a coach on the World Cup one day?

Of course, I think I have similar goals to an athlete, going up step by step.

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Antholz, I like the profile and altitude. It is always harder to shoot well at 1600 metres.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

I have many 🙂
Ole-Einar, Liv-Grete and Frode. OEB because he is OEB, he wants to be better and better year after year. Respect.
Liv-Grete and Frode because of the skiing technique. Just so easy and fast.

Does your rifle have a name?
Frode.

Describe yourself in three words.

Worlds smallest biathlon coach. Maybe the craziest also.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation(not your own): Germany, they know how to coach biathlon.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Favourite shooting range: Antholz
Lucky bib number: 8
Funniest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Jon Kristian Svaland,Peter Sendel and of course Andi Stitzl he is my idol! Just watch him in the races!
Nicest coach on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: So many, it’s hard to pick, I have got help from so many coaches when I was an athlete. But maybe Cristian Stebler.
Best thing about being a coach: I can still work full time in a sport that I love. And give something back to our juniors about what I have learned in my long biathlon career.

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Scott Meenagh: The Interview!

Scott Meenagh is one of Great Britain’s newest para biathletes. (OK so he also does cross country but that is not so important!) He was born on the 16th of September 1989 and is from Cumbernauld in Scotland. He comes from a military background and he served in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment. Whilst serving in Helmand province in Afghanistan he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and lost both his legs. Scott has competed as a rower and has taken part in the Invictus Games and he will do so again this September in Toronto. His target is to go to the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang next March to take part in the sitting cross country and biathlon races.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @SMeenagh

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I was lucky enough to be in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Games and was completely in awe of the sit skiers! It just looked incredible. Such physicality along with technical ability. Also being an ex soldier the skill of being able to shoot accurately under physical strain is a skill to be proud of!

Last season was your first World Cup and World Championships in para Nordic. How do you assess the season? Was it a massive learning curve? What did you learn about biathlon?

My first season was fast and furious. Every single race was a chance to learn something completely new and work on the short term season goals I had set myself. I only finally entered biathlon races towards the back end of the season and that was a huge learning curve. I think patience is truly a virtue in the biathlon world!

Where do you get the funding and support to be able to compete in para biathlon?

I have been lucky enough to be supported firstly by the Armed Forces Para Snow sports team (AFPST) and Help for Heroes on the journey into the sport as I am an ex serviceman. Recently I have been supported by the Scottish Institute of Sport (SAPA) funding for athletes bidding to make it to PyeongChang 2018.

You are also a rower (which is frowned upon as it is a summer sport!). How much of the skills for rowing cross over into skiing?

Rowing has truly been helpful on my journey into the Winter world. The sport is equally as physical and the hard training regime is similar to that of biathlon.

Being part of the well established GB Rowing team Paralympic programme helped me learn how to train as a full time athlete and pay attention to the little details that become the big things in performance sport, both skills I could bring across to Para Biathlon and Nordic whose programme is very much in its infancy and it’s truly exciting and special to be part of that journey.


What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan until the season starts?

I have been well on my way into the new season since the end of April. Lots of base miles on my hand bike and weights training. I have recently returned from our first snow camp of the new season in Oberhof, Germany.

Roller skiing is a massive part of my training. I also run a lot on my carbon fibre running blades.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you most need to improve on in biathlon?

I feel my strength lays in my ability to work hard and really put the extra effort in. I am willing to push myself hard in training and racing. I also feel I am becoming a student of the sport. I want to learn from every experience I have and from the incredible coaches and athletes around the World Cup circuit.

In terms of my areas I aim to improve. Technical ability into fast corners has been a constant work on for me along with the ability to race with my head up and looking for the best lines etc. I feel I want to become a more intelligent skier. Pick the right lines and times to work hard/recover.

Patience is something I aim to work hard on when it comes to range time. Switching off from hard skiing to being composed on the range can prove a real challenge. I’m loving the journey of learning.

What are your goals for this season in para nordic?

This season I want to improve on the areas I fell short on last season and go into the coming World Cup season as a far more rounded skier. Focusing hard on my technical ability along side the power endurance it requires to climb multiple hills with just your arms.

You went to the World Cup round in PyeongChang? What did you think of the shooting range and the tracks there? Do they suit you or did you find them difficult?

I LOVED PyeongChang! What an incredible place! The course is looking superb. Lots of tough climbs on the course which is a challenge I am relishing. The lack of snow especially in the afternoons may prove challenging at Games time but I am confident Korea will put on a special show! The shooting range is really well laid out. A little on the windy side at times but that just keeps things interesting!

You have also competed in the Invictus Games and are going to do so again this season. There is no biathlon in them!!! What are you going to do and what are they like to compete in?

The Invictus Games are fantastic! I am extremely proud to have competed there and medalled in the past. The games were the stepping stone for me into full time sport. This year I will be running and rowing, giving me plenty of challenge to compete in different distances over a short period of time. A nice way to test myself and experience a Games environment with a view to getting things right at the Paralympics! The energy an Invictus Games brings is very unique. The people who compete there inspire me every day. They really define how special sport can be to recovery.

I hear you are a bit of a dare devil. What have you already done and what would you like to do in the future?

Haha! I’m curious to who you’ve heard this from!

Well I guess if I used to jump out of planes for a living I can say I do enjoy a thrill.

I have skydived and bungee jumped since losing my legs which were incredible! Also I love a bit of Alpine skiing (just for fun though!) my heart is truly Nordic! (The correct answer!)

When I get a bit of free time I really enjoy surfing with friends. It’s hard work paddling out but you are rewarded by getting to ride some awesome waves!

You are the second Scottish Scott in biathlon now after Scott Dixon. Do you have any contact with the British Biathlon Union or any of the British biathletes who compete on the IBU?

Sadly not as much as I would like to. Our teams tend to be like passing ships in the night as the Para circuit and able bodied world move on their own schedules during a fast and furious winter season. I am still the new kid on the block and would welcome absolutely any opportunity to learn from the guys who compete on the IBU.

Does your rifle have a name?

I’ve heard a lot of this chat on the biathlon scene. I can say I have not named my rifle. But if you have any suggestions…fire away!! See what I did there!

Describe yourself in three words.

Enthusiastic, Passionate and absolutely determined to achieve what I set my sights on…..so many biathlon puns here!

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Vuokatti, Finland
Favourite shooting range: Finsterau,Germany
Favourite event: 15km
Favourite biathlete (IPC or IBU): Collin Cameron from Canada (IPC)
Lucky bib number: 6
Favourite training activity: I really enjoy long roller ski sessions. Often my dog Jura comes out and tries to keep up!
Nicest biathlete on the IPC tour: Trygve Larson from Norway . The smiling assassin. He is a fantastic biathlete and an all round good guy!!
Best thing about being a biathlete: I love seeing so much of the world and all the spectacular venues we train and compete in. I really like the variety of courses too. No two are the same.

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Holly Rees-Lay: The Interview!

Holly Rees-Lay is a young British biathlete who is hoping to make it on to the IBU Cup this season. The 21-year-old from Oxfordshire competed on the Junior World Cup last season and achieved a top result of 60th in the Lenzerheide Individual. She currently combines biathlon with her studies at Edinburgh University. Even though she only started skiing aged 18 she has already been successful at the British World Championships in Ruhpolding. She also competes in rifle shooting.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyyRL
Like her Facebook Page: Holly Rees-Lay- Rifle Shooter/ Biathlete

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I’ve been watching biathlon on TV with my mum from when I was very small and had always wanted to try it, and my family are all keen target rifle shooters (both my parents have shot for England, and my mum has shot for Great Britain). I wasn’t particularly interested in shooting until I was about 11 when mum convinced me that if I was going to be a biathlete I’d have to learn to shoot! (Not that she thought there was any chance I would ever go skiing or take up biathlon, she just wanted to trick me into learning to shoot). From there I improved fairly quickly and shot for the GB junior squad for the first time in Germany when I was 13, and I went on to compete all over the world with my last competition being the World University Games in Gwangju which turned out to be one of my best matches.

When I was 17, a small roller ski club started in a car park 35 minutes away, so I dragged my mum along with me, mostly because I really needed to lose weight and I didn’t want to run! I started doing roller ski races, although it took 2 races before I didn’t come last… and being super competitive I got completely hooked and knew I had to improve to try and win. I was lucky enough to get involved with the Cairngorm biathlon club when I was 18 and meet Mike Dixon, who persuaded me to go to the British Biathlon Championships in 2015. Despite having only had a week on snow beforehand and having never skied with a rifle before the first race I won 2 of the 3 youth races, at which point I decided to give it a more serious go!

How do you assess last season? You raced in the Junior World Cup. What was that like?

Last season was a really steep learning curve for me. Having only ever raced at British Championships I had no idea how I would perform against anyone else, but I was quite worried that I would be coming last in every race. Ultimately my only goal was to learn as much as I could, enjoy it, race my own races and see what happened. I found that my shooting is definitely competitive, even though I had expected myself to shoot a lot better, but my ski speed needs a lot of work, which I guess isn’t surprising seeing as I’m still really new to it. It was an amazing experience to see first hand how fast the top girls from the other countries are, and has definitely given me the motivation to improve and be more competitive in the coming years.

Do you have a favourite race from last season? Which one was it and what was special about it for you?

Probably the Individual in Lenzerheide. I had a bit of a cold and knew I wasn’t skiing particularly fast in training, which wasn’t exactly filling me with confidence prior to my first ever Junior World Cup! But I was feeling OK on the day and I really wanted to race so I did- I was so nervous I missed 3 on the first shoot, but somehow came back to hit all of the last 15 targets and skied the best I ever had at that point. I hadn’t seen the results but my mum rang me almost in tears to say well done and that I’d finished 60th out of 74. It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to anyone else but having had most of my race experience roller skiing around a car park in Oxfordshire it felt like a very big deal to me!

It’s not easy being a biathlete in Great Britain. What are the hardest things about it? What are the good things?

For me as a civilian in Great Britain, I think the hardest part is that there is no Junior squad or British training group for me to join, so I do sometimes feel very isolated training by myself. Last year I also struggled with organising my training- as I had next to no experience I often had to resort to googling how to organise training plans or ask anyone that could help me! Thankfully this year I am now getting a training plan and guidance through the British Nordic ski team, which is one less thing for me to worry about and I’m super grateful for. Lack of funding is also a problem for the team as a whole as well as myself, although I realise that it’s an issue in a lot of sports and I’m fortunate to have parents who are willing to do almost anything to support me when they see that I can’t support myself. There are also good things though- being a small team means that I’ve made some really close friends, and being the “little one” out of the British girls I feel like the older girls have really looked out for me and been a shoulder to cry on when races don’t go well, which has been really nice. Some of the ex GB biathletes have also been incredibly generous and I can’t thank them enough. And with Amanda doing so well it’s awesome to have someone who I can really look up to and aspire to be like.

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life?

Edinburgh University have been really supportive in making sure I can catch up on any work I miss, and I was very grateful to them for letting me take my winter exams in August as I was away racing in December. Obviously I have to make some sacrifices within my social life, but I have a great group of friends who are always really supportive even when I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. I’m also very lucky to live with my best friend, who competes on the World Cup for rifle shooting (and has recently been getting some awesome results), so totally gets it if I’m grouchy for no apparent reason and just want to lie in bed watching Made in Chelsea because I’m tired!

Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

Freshers week…
(For my non-UK readers Freshers week is the week before you begin classes at University and involves a lot of parties and alcohol!)

What are your goals for next season and further into the future?

Next season will be my first season as a senior so I’m hoping I’ll qualify for the IBU Cup team and then take it from there. I’m aiming to qualify for the World Cup in the next 3 years with my ultimate goal being to compete at the Winter Olympics.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What will you be working on over the summer?

My biggest strength is definitely the accuracy of my shooting, but I need to work on shooting faster and not losing so much time on the range. My biggest weaknesses are my ski speed and my (lack of) downhill technique, but I am now working with British Nordic so I am confident I can make big improvements leading up to next winter.

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

I used to do figure skating when I was younger and I’ve been getting back into that recently which has been really fun! I’m also a big American football fan and support the Cincinnati Bengals (which can be a challenge in itself…) so I try and catch up on their games in the winter!

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I loved racing in Lenzerheide, the area is stunning and I felt the tracks really suited me with long uphills but that weren’t too steep.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Johannes Boe, because he’s always exciting to watch race and you know he’ll give absolutely everything if he thinks he has a chance to win.

Does your rifle have a name?

Yes, it’s called Freddie.

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined, Stubborn, Caffeinated

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Czech Republic
Favourite shooting range: Ruhpolding, mostly because there never seems to be any wind to worry about!
Nicest biathlete: He’s retired but I’ve got to say Mike Dixon because without him I would never have had the confidence to give biathlon a go.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Getting to train and compete in incredible places I would never otherwise think to visit.

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Sebastian Samuelsson: The Interview!

sebsam

With the World Championships starting in Hochfilzen on the 9th of February I spoke to a biathlete who will be making his first appearance at the Senior event. Sweden’s Sebastian Samuelsson has burst on to the World Cup this season and has six Top 25 finishes already. He is from Sollefteå and was born on the 28th of March 1997. His best result on the World Cup so far is 13th from the Sprint race in Nove Mesto just before Christmas.

Follow Sebastian on Twitter: @SebbeSamuelsson
Read his blog (Swedish): http://sebastiansamuelsson.se/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I started cross-country skiing when I was nine years old. A year later the Swedish Biathlon Championships were held in Sollefteå where I lived. I watched the competitions and immediately wanted to try it out. I did and have liked it ever since!

This is your first season on the World Cup. What has it been like?

An adventure! I never expected that I would do this well in my first year and I am just trying to enjoy every minute! The competitions are similar, but everything is bigger and the big crowds make it a really nice party.

Your best result so far on the World Cup was 13th in the Nove Mesto Sprint. Can you describe the race? Did you think you would do so well so quickly?

It was the third week of World Cup competitions for me, and not being used to it, I was tired. I did not feel so well in the days before. The zeroing was really bad and all this made me feel more nervous than before. We had really good skis that day and I skied behind Simon Schempp on the first loop, that gave me confidence. Zero in the prone and still feeling strong. The coaches screamed that I was skiing like the leaders so I knew that I was doing a good race. One miss in the standing and then I made my best final loop this year. I never expected to be 13th with a penalty loop in good conditions and that is why it was so fun!

Wolfgang Pichler is your coach and moved you onto the World Cup. What is he like as a coach and what has he helped you to improve?

He is demanding, but in a good way. He is very ambitious and always gives 100 %. He is one of the best coaches I have had. The best thing with Wolfgang is that you learn what it really takes to be a world-class athlete. There are no shortcuts, just hard training! He helps me improve in many ways.

You did not race in Oberhof. Was that planned or did you just eat to much at Christmas? 😉

Ha ha, both. I ate a lot, but it was already planned that I would skip Oberhof to prepare myself for the World Championships in Hochfilzen.

You will be taking part in your first Senior World Championships in Hochfilzen. Are you excited or nervous? Have you raced there before? What are your personal goals for the races?

Not so nervous, not yet at least. Just excited, it will be so much fun! I have never been there before. If I make one Top-20 I will be more than happy.

The whole Swedish Team are doing really well this season. Do you think you have a chance of a medal in the Relays in Hochfilzen?

We have all improved a lot! I think we have a good medal chance in all three relays.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I think I am quite a good all rounder. I have to improve on all parts to become a world-class athlete!

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Hallstaberget in Sollefteå of course! It is where I do most of my training. The course is hard and the shooting range is good. You should visit me and try it out!

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Hmm, I think I would give a different answer depending on when you ask me. But I will go with Johannes Bö, he is young and always aiming for first place!

Does your rifle have a name?

No. If someone has any ideas, let me know.
( As you are Swedish may I suggest Gunnar Riflesson! 😉 )

Describe yourself in three words.

Positive, ambitious and happy.


Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Great Britain with Scott Dixon and Amanda Lightfoot of course! We train with them during summer and autumn.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Norway
Favourite shooting range: Hallstaberget, Sollefteå
Lucky bib number: 19, still waiting to get it at the World Cup.
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Outside of our team, Simon Fourcade is the one I have spoken with the most.
Best thing about being a biathlete: All the nice people and the chance to challenge yourself.

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Mark Arendz : The Interview!

arendz1

The IPC Biathlon World Championships (ok cross country as well…) start in Finsterau, Germany on the 11th of February. Canada’s Mark Arendz will be taking part and so I had a chat with him before it all gets underway. Mark was born on the 3rd of March 1990 on Prince Edward Island. At age seven he was involved in a farming accident which led to the amputation of his left arm above the elbow. In 2013 he won the overall IPC Biathlon World Cup in the standing category after finishing second in the two previous years. He won a silver and a bronze medal in the Sochi Paralympics and he already has three World Championship medals, 1 gold and 2 bronze, and is hoping to add some more to his collection in Finsterau!

Follow Mark on Twitter: @markarendz
Have a look at his website: http://www.markarendz.com/

Why did you become a biathlete?

The challenge! Balancing both the endurance and the all-out power of the skiing, along with the precision and need to adapt instantly to the environment that is required for shooting. It is a sport where on the rare occasion you can triumph with an excellent performance in one or the other, but usually, you need to perform both on the tracks and the range to succeed. Though I know I may never achieve it, I wake up each morning excited to attempt to achieve the perfect biathlon race.

Are you happy with your World Cup results/performances so far this season?

I am very excited by my World Cup results so far this season. Over the training season I had a different mindset and focus for my shooting, and I feel that this new approach is paying off. Years of habit needed to be broken down to the basics once again, then built back up. After quite a few years working on my skiing, my cross country skiing is coming up to the level I believe it should be at, especially the classic. It is a great reward to see years of hard work coming together to the point where I believe I’m competitive for the win in any classic race. (Before I was a Biathlon Specialist, now I’m a Classic Biathlon Specialist.)

Are you excited about the World Championships? What are your goals for the biathlon races?

I am looking forward to the World Championships in Finsterau. I have had some great races there, and a few that left me wanting more. As for biathlon goals; I will focus on executing my race plan to the best of my abilities. Shooting will be a key component to that, as will being efficient while skiing.

How have you trained for the World Championships? What are your plans up until the races?

Since returning from the World Cup in Vuokatti, I have been in Canmore. The early part of January has been primarily a training block. I raced a few local loppets at the end of the month; having some fun as well as a positive training effect. A week before the Worlds begin I will head to Ramsau, Austria to get over jetlag and the final preparations for World Championships.

How does skiing with one pole affect your technique?

Skiing with only one pole, I find it affects my ski tactics more than technique. The technique my coach and I try to work on is identical to that of anyone using two poles. The difference would be where to use each of the different techniques. One skate is primarily an upper body technique, so I try not to use it as much. So I switch to Offset or Two skate sooner. Though I try not to do many of them; penalty loops are an interesting aspect with only one pole. Some go in a favourable direction, where my pole is to the outside, while others are not so favourable.

You don’t carry your rifle in the race. How is your shooting different to what we see on the IBU World Cup?

There are three significant differences between biathlon on the IBU World Cup and IPC World Cup. First, we use air rifles; shooting at targets that are 10m away and only from the prone position. Second, no one carries their rifle; coaches place the rifle on the mat as an athlete skies into the range. This also allows for very fast setup and shooting times. The last significant difference is those athletes with an impairment of one, or both arms use a spring rest under the forestock of the rifle for it to rest upon. The rest of the shooting is the same as anyone would use in the IBU.

In the summer I train and compete with members of Biathlon Canada’s World Cup team. Using a .22 caliber rifle and a specially designed prosthetic, it allows me to shoot both the prone and standing positions. It allows me a unique opportunity to work on my shooting.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Shooting is a longtime strength of mine. Adapting to the shooting environment while still performing. As a bigger skier, I rely on my power, having to focus more when the conditions get softer. Having to deal with jetlag at most competitions isn’t ideal, but as with anything, it gets better with practice.

Canada has a really good para-nordic team. Do you get help from your country in term of funding and support like coaching/physios/wax techs etc? How does it work?

The success comes from a well-oiled machine of staff, each with their responsibilities but the ability to help out in other areas when needed. For example, a biathlon coach that is in charge of feeds and splits during a cross country race, and so on. Cohesion within the Canadian team has always been high. It makes for an enjoyable atmosphere in training camps, day to day training or at competitions. Each athlete has their strengths which they share with others, and this builds a solid team. For me, I try to share my biathlon experience with the other shooters. While I learn a lot from teammates like Brian McKeever or Graham Nishikawa.

More and more of your fellow athletes are doing both a winter and summer sport now. Have you ever considered turning to the ‘dark side’ of summer sport? What sport would you do?

Yes, I have played with the idea of doing a summer sport. The first one that comes to mind is competitive shooting, 10m air rifle perhaps even pistol. If mountain biking were to get into the Paralympic schedule, I would consider that as well.

Does your rifle have a name?

Warhammer – it may be small, but it packs a mighty punch!

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own):
Germany
Favourite track: Kananaskis Country, Alberta (south of Canmore)
Favourite biathlete: Magdalena Neuner
Favourite shooting range: Canmore, CAN
Favourite biathlon race: Pursuit
Lucky bib number: Haven’t discovered it yet! (Still waiting to race in #23)
Best thing about being a biathlete: The roar of the crowd as you hit all five targets!

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Rene Zahkna: The Interview!

zahkna

Rene Zahkna is an Estonian biathlete who was born on the 2nd of October 1994 in Võru. He made his World Cup debut in 2014 and achieved his first Top 40 result last season. He had a successful junior career winning medals at the Youth Olympics in 2012, the Junior World Championships in 2013 and in the Junior European Championships in 2014 and 2015. He also loves emojis! 😉

You can like his Facebook page: Rene Zahkna (Sportsperson)

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

When I was about 8 years old and my father was the head coach of the national biathlon team, I got to shoot other biathletes’ rifles and I was instantly hooked by shooting. In my hometown I actually tried many different sports from judo to volleyball but I got the first taste of biathlon competition when I was 12 years old. I wasn’t good at shooting but I could ski fast and when I got my fifth place medal (for kids, the top 6 got medals), I told myself that this is what I’m going to be good at.

What was it like competing at home in the Summer World Championships? Were you pleased with your performances?

I was really happy that the SBWCH was in Estonia and I had no problems with motivation. But what I did have, was huge problems with my new rifle stock. I got a new French rifle stock but I just couldn’t hit the prone targets with a high pulse. Sprint 2+0, pursuit 3+3+0+1. Then I realised, there is no chance I’m going to compete with this stock in winter. So now I’m back to my old stock which is working perfectly and I even had camouflage printed on it.

You got your best finish on the World Cup in the Ruhpolding Individual last season. Can you describe the race? How did it feel getting your first points finish?

Skiing wise I got lucky because it stopped snowing at the end of the race, so the snow conditions got really good for me, most of the top athletes started at the front. To be honest, I really was planning to shoot clean and I was bit frustrated when I missed the last shot of the second shooting. 34th place with 2 penalties, I was really happy and pumped up. I continued racing well in Antholz, where I got a point from the pursuit.

How do you assess last season overall? Were you happy with your results?

Last season competition-wise went well, I wasn’t expecting points after my military service and 2 injuries. But I gained weight 😐 when in service, so I’m also working on that.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan until the season starts?

I have done everything our coach has planned plus extra body strengthening but health-wise, everything is not going according to plan. I’ve been sick🤒😷 in all three training camps in Obertilliach 😩

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is precise and fast shooting and my weakness is the other quite important thing, skiing 😅

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

I can’t tell you yet where my ultimate favourite track is because there are still places I haven’t been to but so far Antholz is very cool because of the wide and fast track, there are no huge hills where you just want to stop and die 😵

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Emil Hegle Svendsen because of his skiing style, he can glide perfectly.

Does your rifle have a name?

Does anyone have a name for a rifle? 😂 (Of course they do!)

Describe yourself in three words.

I LOVE football.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): France 2013
Favourite shooting range: Otepää
Lucky bib number: 17
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Kauri Kõiv
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Kaisa Mäkäräinen
Best thing about being a biathlete: Freedom

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Mario Dolder: The Interview!

dolder

Mario Dolder is a Swiss biathlete who was born on the 22nd of June 1990. He won a Youth/Junior World Championships bronze medal in the Sprint race in Canmore in 2009. His best result on the World Cup is 16th place from the Sprint race in Holmenkollen in 2015. He has taken part in 4 World Championships and his best overall finish in the Total Score is 46th which he achieved in Season 2014/15. He missed the first part of last season with an injury but came back to finish the season well.

Check out his website: http://www.mariodolder.ch/
You can like his Facebook page: Dolder Mario
He’s got his own Fan club too: http://www.mariodolder-fanclub.ch/

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I love to be active in nature and doing sports. My parents taught me cross-country skiing. I did some races and once I tried biathlon. I had a lot of fun and decided to start a biathlon career.

How do you assess last season? Were you pleased with your results?

In summer 2015 I had two knee injuries and lost a lot of power. Therefore my first race was in Ruhpolding in January. My shape wasn’t good and the races were bad. In February my shape was much better and I was 24th two times in Presque Isle…pretty good results for me.

What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan until the season starts?

We have had a good summer of training with the Swiss-Team. We trained a lot in Andermatt, our training base, but also in Crete, Antholz, Obertilliach, Ruhpolding and Oberhof.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: Prone Shooting, Sprint races

Weakness: My inconsistency

What are your goals for this season?

A Top 15 finish on the World Cup.
To finish in the Top 40 on the World Cup overall.

The Swiss men’s team is improving. Do you think you can do well in the relays next season?

We are looking forward to the relays. Especially in the relay at the World Championships in Hochfilzen. We will try to beat our best result from Kontiolahti (7th).

You took part in the Single Mixed Relay in Canada. Do you like this new event?

For me it is a fun competition for entertainment, but not needed on the World Cup.

You have your own fan club! Do they come to a lot of races? Can you hear them on the tracks?

Normally they visit two or three races each season. The support is very good! For sure…they are the loudest of all. 😉

Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?

Antholz. I love the profile and the landscape.

Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?

Berni Leitinger (AUT)- he had a really serious illness two years ago. But he fought like a lion, and now he is back on the track! RESPECT!!!

Does your rifle have a name?

No.

Describe yourself in three words.

Focused, calm, good-humoured.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Belgium
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite shooting range: Pokljuka
Lucky bib number: 22
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Kauri Koiv
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Alexia Runggaldier
Best thing about being a biathlete: Season-End Party in Khanty 😉

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