Brian Halligan:The Interview!

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This week’s interviewee is another young American biathlete Brian Halligan from Saratoga Springs. The 19 year old currently lives in Fort Kent, Maine. He has already taken part in two Youth/Junior World Championships in Obertilliach and Presque Isle.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @bhbiathlon

Take a look at his blog: http://brianhalliganbiathlon.blogspot.co.uk

Americans play baseball, basketball, hockey, football and want to be WWE Wrestlers! Explain yourself! How did you become a biathlete?

My father was a National Guard biathlete so I grew up around the sport. I was never pushed to do it but I fell in love with it at an early age. My childhood winters were filled with skiing and biathlon so it was just natural for me to do 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?

I will admit that training and racing has kept me from some social outings with friends but they understand that this is something I love to do. Plus they all tell me they are jealous of me because I get to go to Europe. As for education I decided to put university off for a few years to see how far I could get with biathlon.

Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?

I have not qualified for Raubichi yet. Qualification for the US is at the end of December. It is a best 2 of 3 race series in Anchorage, Alaska. The top junior athletes within 98% of the leader qualify for the Championships.

(This interview was done before the trials which were eventually held in Mount Itasca, Minnesota and good news Brian qualified not only for Raubichi but also the Open European Championships in Estonia!)

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

Right now I do not receive any funding. Travel and equipment is paid for by my parents and I.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

I really hate explaining biathlon to people. Nobody in the US knows what it is so they always ask about it. When graduating high school I got so tired of explaining to people I was joining a biathlon team instead of going to university, I started telling people I was just going to University in Maine. The best part of biathlon for me is the racing. I love to race, even during training. My teammates always tell me to slow down because I am going too hard but I love to race.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

I wish I could steal the Bo brothers speed and accuracy on the range. It is always fun to see them come in and shoot clean in 19 or 18 seconds.

What would you like to change about biathlon? (the rules, equipment, schedule etc).

It would be cool if there was a Jr. World Cup. It doesn’t have to be all season, but 2 or 3 stops would be fun and something to look forward to while training in the summer, not just YJWC.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)

I don’t think I have one role model. I have received so much help and guidance from so many athletes past and present. They say it takes a village to raise a child. In my case it took the biathlon community to raise me.

What’s your typical day like?

My typical day: I wake up at 7:00 and eat breakfast. Then I go to training at 8 or 8:30. Training ends around 11 so I usually eat either second breakfast or first lunch. A little later around 1:30 I’ll eat a bigger lunch. Next, depending on how I’m feeling I’ll nap, do homework, or watch a biathlon race from last year’s world cup. At about 3 I will dry-fire and get ready for afternoon training. Training will end at about 6, then it’s time for dinner, then bed at 10. Some days I have to skip afternoon training because I work in the Deli at the grocery store in Fort Kent.

You are lucky enough to have people like Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey in your team. Do they give you help and advice or are they mean and just ignore you?;-)

I have seen Tim and Lowell as role models my whole life, even though I just met them this year. They haven’t given me advice of any kind but just being able to practice with them and hang out with them from time to time is really cool and inspirational.

Does your rifle have a name?

Haha, no. But when I shoot well I sometimes talk to my rifle.

Describe yourself in three words.

Fun, Focused, Happy

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Nove Mesto, CZE

Favourite biathlete (past or present): Russell Currier (I live with him in Fort Kent)

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Mass Start

Favourite/best race of your career so far? YJWC, 2014 in Presque Isle. In the Individual I was 18th

Favourite food: Pineapple and Ham Pizza

Favourite singer/band: Twenty One Pilots

Favourite film: Miracle on Ice

Favourite sports team: New York Yankees

Favourite TV show: The Walking Dead.

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Jarl Hengstmengel: The Interview!

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We are going Dutch this week for the young biathlete interview. Jarl Hengstmengel talks about how he got into biathlon and why he can’t go to Raubichi! He was born on the 7th of May 1996 and has already taken part in 2 Youth/Junior World Championships in Obertilliach and Presque Isle where his best result was a 42nd place in the Sprint race. Hopefully he will be back next year to improve on that.

You can follow Jarl on Twitter: @JGHengstmengel
Like his page on Facebook : ‘Jarl Hengstmengel’ (Sportsperson)

In the Netherlands the Winter Sportspeople are speed skaters, speed skaters and more speed skaters! How did you escape the ice and become a biathlete?

When I was 5 years old, my family decided to go to Germany. There we had the first touch with biathlon on TV and we found it much more exiting than speed skating. So we started first with cross country skiing and later on my brothers tried biathlon. And from then there was no escape anymore and I started biathlon when I was 11. First I trained in a beginner group in the south of Bavaria, close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Then I trained in a scholar group and then I became an youth athlete. I always trained with Germans and competed in German competitions. So my way to escape the typical Dutch sport was to go to Germany. In Germany I had no choice then.

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?

It’s very complicated to combine school with sports. I’m often at competitions and when I’m at home I have to study what I missed when I was away. I’m at a school which has a special concept for athletes to combine sports and school. That helps a lot.

I often miss things like parties or have to leave earlier because of training, but I have a lot of fun during training and competitions and I know a lot of people in biathlon, that is also a big part of my social life. But it is true I would like to have more time for a social life outside of sports.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

At the moment I get a lot of help from my ski club SC Mittenwald, who help to pay competition and training costs and some very friendly parents! But after graduating this year I need more financial help to keep me on a professional level of sports. The financial situation for junior winter athletes in the Netherlands is not the best, so I have to finance a lot by myself.

Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?

I want to, but because it’s my final year at school I can’t be away at that time. To qualify I have to be under 10% behind the first 3 in the Alpencup two times.

What are your goals for this season and for the future?

This year I want to make a big step forward in running and to be under 8% behind the first 3 in running in the Alpencup. In the next years I want reach the World cup and to take part in the Olympics in 2022. That would be great.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

Too many good things to count, but one of the best things is travelling. I love travelling and to discover the world. And you meet a lot of people from different countries and learn a lot about the world.

Worst thing? Which worse things!?

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

The running technique of Martin Fourcade. He is a really good biathlete and really fast on the track. Every year again he is in good shape. I still remember that one moment during the World Championships in Ruhpolding 2012, when Bergman and Fourcade battled in the last lap and Fourcade jumped away on the last uphill. For me a legendary moment in biathlon.

Do you have any hobbies outside of sport?

I really like to work with computers. I want to study something in that direction. I love to be out there in nature, hiking and mountain biking without the meaning of training for biathlon. Only to enjoy.

Does your rifle have a name?

No, I tried once to find one but there is no name which is good enough for him. It’s my rifle, that is all there is to say.

Describe yourself in three words.

Calm, concentrated, motivated.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Pokljuka

Favourite biathlete (past or present): Martin Fourcade

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Individual

Favourite/best race of your career so far?
Individual YJWCH 2013 in Obertilliach

Favourite food: Pancakes

Favourite singer/band:
Armin van Buuren

Favourite film: The Italian Job

Favourite sports team:
Team Out There

Favourite TV show: Game of Thrones, How I met your mother

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The Rifle Fires Back!

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Hi everyone my name is Reginald P. Rifle but you can call me Reggie if you like. I am a professional biathlon rifle and as we are sorely neglected in comparison to our carriers I have decided to redress the balance and tell you all what it’s like to be me.

I am a short bore rifle and like most of my colleagues I am an Anschütz Fortner. I have a fore sight and a rear sight and I can hold 4 magazines containing five .22 calibre cartridges. I also have an annoying harness attached to me so my carriers can hold me on their back. My minimum weight is 3.5kg which is around 8 pounds but it is cold in winter and sometimes you put on a few extra pounds to keep warm. Don’t judge me! I also have a snazzy little snow cover over my muzzle to stop the snow getting in.

You might think it’s an easy life being a professional rifle but you are wrong. When you are a young rifle you think “I will be in biathlon and see the world”. See the inside of a bag or case more like! That’s where I spend a lot of time. I have seen the inside of many airports and airplane holds but not a lot else! My Summer Olympic cousins the pistol and shotgun have it easy. All they have to do is aim and fire, aim and fire but not me. No I have to get carried around on someone’s back for up to 20 kilometres. It’s not much fun let me tell you. You get jostled and bumped side to side and up and down and then there is always the danger of my carrier falling. Do they fall face first to save me? –no! They fall backwards and can break my stock or give my barrel a nasty bruise. When they do fire me I have to put up with heavy breathing and all the shaking from a high pulse rate. It’s no walk in the park believe me!

At least that is in the heat of competition. Don’t get me started on dry firing. Off the back, fire, on the back, over and over again! Do these people not realise how dizzy that can make a rifle. Also I fire bullets not little puffs of air! That’s not the worst of it though. Sometimes…sorry this is difficult to talk about…sometimes they take me to pieces and clean me!! The horror! You don’t see their precious skis and poles treated like that oh no! They get technicians and a wax truck! Worse still after all the hard work we put in and all the hours we spend together they don’t even give us a name! I am one of the lucky ones but many of my colleagues are nameless. They do however like to colour us in ridiculous colours like gold, red, orange and pink without even consulting us beforehand. We prefer the classic black by the way.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad. If it was I wouldn’t be doing it! I get to spend a lot of time outdoors and see a lot of nice scenery out on the tracks. The best bit though is the races. I love competition. There is nothing better than entering the stadium with the crowd cheering and all eyes on me to see how I will perform. Once I am settled and ready to fire it’s just me versus my eternal nemesis –the targets! Just fifty metres down range there they are, 5 black circles 11.5cm in diameter for the standing and 4.5cm for the prone.

There is no better feeling than knocking those 5 down in quick succession. Actually that’s not true the best feeling is when my neighbour shooting beside me misses the last one and I hit it. I enjoy looking over and winking at them and letting out a little triumphant chuckle as my biathlete swings me onto their back and skis off to victory. I live for the roar of the crowd every time a target goes down that’s why I do what I do. I also enjoy the trip to the podium especially if it’s on the top step where I can bask in the glory and adoration from the crowd!

So next time you are watching biathlon I hope you will have a bit more appreciation for me and my friends the other rifles. If it wasn’t for us you would be just be watching boring cross-country skiing! We play a big part in the sport and deserve more recognition from both biathletes and fans. Please look out for us and cheer and maybe even give us a name like Reginald P. Rifle or else you might be shocked when one day the rifle fires back!

Reggie’s opinions are not necessarily those of biathlon23. All views are his own.

He doesn’t use social media himself but recommends that you follow @biathlon23 on Twitter and like biathlon23 on Facebook.

Pokljuka in SLO-motion!

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Well the World Cup is back in Slovenia and still there is no snow! Fortunately Pokljuka did a great job of the tracks and racing went ahead as normal. Well I say as normal but the first race, the Women’s Sprint, was far from normal. First Kaisa Makarainen missed four shots and finished 15th on what looked like a relatively easy shooting day. Gabriela Soukalova took full advantage and made up for a slow start to the season by shooting clear and winning by 18 seconds. Dorothea Wierer returned to the podium in second and probably the most consistent of the women so far this season Valj Semerenko came in third.

Further down the field there were some tremendous personal performances. Rosanna Crawford continued to creep closer to the podium by coming fourth. Olga Podchufarova made another TOP 5, 2 more Italians got into the TOP 10 with Nicole Gontier in 8th and Karin Oberhofer in 10th. Laura Dahlmeier came back from her summer injury to finish 9th, Mari Laukkanen beat Makarainen by coming in 11th and the two French girls Braisaz 14th and Latuilliere 20th continue to impress. Fuyuko Suzuki 12th and the USA’s Hanna Dreissigacker 17th posted their career best results. There were also 3 Austrians in the points and I could go on but I still have a lot to write about the other races!!!

It was the mens turn to race in the Sprint on Friday afternoon and Anton Shipulin kept up his great start to the season by winning in style. Another clear shoot and a strong ski meant he finished 12 seconds ahead of Austria’s Dominik Landertinger. In third was Svendsen whose shooting has been amazing so far but his skiing needs to catch up a little bit. His fellow Norwegians the brothers Bø also got into the TOP10 with Tarjei 7th and Johannes 10th. Two more Russians also hit the TOP 10 with Garanichev in 5th and Tsvetkov in 9th. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet got his best result on the World Cup so far in 8th and Joel Sloof also achieved his in 46th qualifying his for the Pursuit for the second week in a row. Slovakia’s Martin Otcenas got in on the act too getting his best place finish in 21st.

The Pursuits took place on Friday and two great performances from Darya Domracheva and Emil Svendsen secured them the wins. They both shot well, Emil shooting 20/20 and Darya 19/20. Kaisa Makarainen tried her best to catch up to Dasha but she started too far back to be able to do it. Third was a great battle between Valj Semerenko and Dorothea Wierer which the Ukrainian won in a sprint for the line. In the men’s race there was no such action as Svendsen won with a comfortable margin and Shipulin took second well ahead of Martin Fourcade in third.

Further back in the field there were some great place gains for the likes of Canada’s Megan Heinicke who went from 41st to 14th and Russia’s Timofey Lapshin who started 45th and finished 6th! Also impressive were Johannes Kuehn(GER) 37th-13th, Martin Krcmar(CZE) 35th-15th, Simon Fourcade(FRA) 41st-20th and Sven Grossegger(AUT) 43rd-24th. In the women’s race there were a lot of big moves like Nadezhda Skardino(BLR) 22nd-6th, Daria Virolaynen 35th -9th, Krystyna Guzik(POL)48th-22nd, Nadzeya Pisareva(BLR) 42nd-27th,Juliya Dzyhma (UKR) 60th-34th and Natalya Burdyga(UKR) 53rd- 33rd! Two biathletes in the Men’s Pursuit also hit the deck pretty hard. Italy’s Dominik Windisch face planted his way across the line and Finland’s Olli Hiidensalo gave himself a nasty scrape and a concussion doing the same on the tracks.

On Sunday we were traeted to the first Mass Starts of the season. I was really looking forward to Kaisa vs. Dasha in a head to head race with no advantages for either. Unfortunately for Dasha and for us this ended after the first lap when she crashed into another athlete while exiting the penalty loop. She continued to the next shoot but had to use the spare rifle and missed four shots. Understandably she called it a day after that! This then left Kaisa to go on and win but it wasn’t easy. She had to chase down and pass the excellent Anais Bescond who was too tired to hold her off. More great shooting from Skardino saw her take third.

The men’s race was similarly unjust as this time Jean-Guillaume Beatrix got the bad luck. In a race to the finish with Shipulin and Fourcade the Russian skied over his basket on the end of the ski and tripped him. Then Fourcade broke his pole trying to avoid him and so Jean-Gui lost a chance to fight for the podium and probably the win. Shipulin took advantage of the accident and skied away from a slightly tired looking Fourcade to make it two wins and a second place for him! He loves Pokljuka! Simon Eder snapped up the chance to get third just pipping Fredrik Lindstrom on the line to get his first podium of the year.

Pokljuka provided some great racing this year and saw a lot of biathletes achieve their personal best performances. We head into the Christmas break with Kaisa and Martin still in yellow but with a lot to look forward to when we start again in Oberhof. If you suffer withdrawal symptoms over Christmas with no biathlon may I suggest you watch the replays of this weekend’s action. I am sure you will enjoy a bit of Pokljuka in SLO-motion!

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Robert Sircus: The Interview!

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Next under the Biathlon23 microscope is Great Britain’s Robert Sircus. The 19 year old has already competed in 1 World Youth/Junior World Championships in Presque Isle. Here he answers questions about what is like being a young biathlete.

You can follow Robert on Twitter: @robarvidsircus
You can also find him on Facebook: Robert Sircus Biathlete!

As a British athlete you have chosen a really tough sport to compete in. Why did you want to become a biathlete instead of another type of sportsman like a football or tennis player?

I started biathlon when I was ten because I thought rollerskiing looked like fun. Since then I have come to enjoy competing and pushing myself to be a better athlete. I chose biathlon over other sports because I love the sheer variety of the training – if I did most of my training as rollerskiing or running or cycling I would get bored of the sport but because we do so much that is different it keeps it interesting.

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?

It is tough balancing training with studies but the staff at Edinburgh University are really understanding and do what they can to aid me. As a member of the University’s performance sport programme I am also able to train alongside other athletes in similar positions. Finding time for socialising is a bit harder but I always try to spend as much time as possible with friends.

What’s a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me might involve getting up early for a morning training session and going straight from there to morning lectures. I might get a short break in the afternoon but then it’s back to studies followed by a quick meal and a longer training session. I might then get some time to relax in the evening provided I do not have too much homework.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I do not get much funding since biathlon is such a small sport in the UK. I get a bit from some sports charities and some help from a few local companies. I also get some equipment from Fischer and Team Out-There as well as free contact lenses from my local opticians but everything else has to be paid for by myself.

Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?

I am going to Junior World’s this year. I was selected -along with Sam Cairns and Scott Dixon following the two World/IBU Cup selection races in Beitostolen in November. The fourth man will be selected after some more races in January.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

The best thing about being a biathlete is having the opportunity to travel to places I would otherwise never get to visit and meeting other athletes from other nations. There are really no negatives as far as I am concerned although it is a shame when I don’t get to go out with friends.

What would you like to change about biathlon? (the rules, equipment, schedule etc).

I would like to see a proper sprint event brought into biathlon like they have in cross-country since at the moment there isn’t really any event for shorter distance athletes and I think it could be exciting to watch.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)

Dave Smith who is a Paralympic athlete from my home-town is easily the most inspirational person I have ever met and he has had a massive impact on my approach to training and competition over the past few years. My coach Mike Dixon who has coached me since I first started biathlon has been a great role model for me over the years and is still my first port of call for advice or support.

To learn more about Dave Smith see his website: http://www.davidasmith.co.uk/

You have spent some time training in Norway with the Norwegians. What was that like and how has it made you a better biathlete?

My year in Norway was an incredible experience both culturally and in training. The biggest factors were having other biathletes surrounding me who pushed me every day, making me a much better athlete than I was before I started my time there, and having regular competition throughout the Winter for the first time in my life so now I am much more settled when I line up to start a race.

Does your rifle have a name?

I have often considered naming my rifle to make it more personal but I have never come up with any good names. I am open to any suggestions.

Quick Fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: I loved Voss but Ruhpolding is also very special to me since it is where I did my first ever biathlon race.
Favourite biathlete (past or present): I don’t really have a favourite although, like I said before, Mike Dixon has always been a big inspiration for me.
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): I love the pursuit because I think it is the most exciting race as an an athlete.
Favourite/best race of your career so far? The one that gave me the best feeling was the sprint at the 2013 Norwegian Summer Championships where I finished in 7th place which surprised all of the Norwegian athletes who didn’t believe Brit’s could ski. However that has since been surpassed. The race which gave me the best feeling was the mass start at the British Trials this year. The shooting wasn’t my best ever but I have never felt stronger on the skis and the satisfaction of knowing I had done enough to qualify for the IBU cup team was fantastic.

Favourite singer/band: It varies from day to day but I really like groups like Imagine Dragons and The Script
Favourite film: The Departed
Favourite sports team: Liverpool FC and Glasgow Warriors RFC
Favourite TV show: Game of Thrones

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‘Fil-zen you in!

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To Austria this week and between eating strudel, singing all the songs from The Sound of Music and getting into trouble for outrageous stereotyping there was just about time for some biathlon! Generally speaking shooting clean in a Sprint Race means you have a good chance of winning it. Not however if you happen to be racing against Kaisa Makarainen! At the moment she can afford a miss and still win, much to the consternation of Karin Oberhofer. The Italian produced a great race, shooting clean, that ended with her first ever podium. Second place is fantastic for the Italian but it would have been first but for Makarainen’s amazing ski speed. In third was Tiril Eckhoff who is rapidly emerging as a real contender for the Chrystal Globe. Other ladies who impressed were France’s Justine Braisaz who on her World Cup debut finished 17th. Enora Latuilliere continued her good progress in 20th the German ladies had 3 in the TOP 10 -Hildebrand 5th, Hinz 6th and Preuss 10th.

The men’s race was a bit of a surprise even before it began with Fourcade and Bjoerndalen choosing to go in group 4 with the later starters. This was to take advantage of colder conditions making a faster track. It didn’t work and Johannes Thingnes Bø skied round like a rocket beating the field by 14 seconds. The Germans also did well here completing the podium with Simon Schempp in second and Andi Birnbacher third. Home favourite Dominik Landertinger just missed the podium coming in fourth. Elsewhere Dutch biathlete Joel Sloof qualified for his first ever Pursuit by coming in 52nd and Romania’s Cornel Puchianu matched last weeks 28th place to equal his best result.

Saturday saw the first Men’s and Women’s Relays of the season. Well they were definitely worth the wait. The Women’s race was one of the best I have seen in a long time. The lead changed several times and there were so many good performances and of course a few bad ones which made it all the more exciting. The Germans carried their great Sprint form over and were so calm and collected for such a young team especially Preuss who was on the last leg. Kummer also did well on the first leg and Hildebrand and Hinz were strong in between. It did look like Russia might cruise to victory but Glazyrina had a total meltdown on the range and handed the win to Germany. Domracheva outskied Vitkova to take second, an exceptional result for them and the Czechs were impressive in third. Italy’s chances of a podium were ruined by some bad shooting from Gontier and Tiril Eckhoff pulled of a miracle to get Norway back to 5th after starting her leg in 14th!

The Men’s race was characterised by some excellent shooting. The Russians won by only using one spare round which is incredible! Lapshin was the culprit missing one target but we can forgive him! The French also shot well only using 4 spare rounds and Norway came in third despite Birkeland and Tarjei Bø both needing all three spares in their standing shoots on legs three and four. Austria and Germany had a sprint for fourth where Landertinger beat Schempp to the line and Canada finished in sixth,a good result for them.

Sunday was Pursuit day and a dominant Kaisa Makarainen was untroubled on her way to victory. She missed 1 shot but won with time to spare. In second was Ekaterina Glazyrina who recovered in incredibly quick time from her relay disaster and also just missed 1 target. In third was France’s Anais Bescond with her best result of the season so far. She had the strength at the end to hold off Podchufarova who was 4th and a magnificent Rosanna Crawford who came from 34th to finish 5th which is a career best result for her. Other good performances came from Monika Hojnisz (POL) 40th-11th, Nadezhda Skardino (BLR) 36th-12th, Annelise Cook (USA) 50th-33rd and Daria Virolaynen (RUS) 51st-35th!

The men ended the weekend with a shocking result! Yes Martin Fourcade won – that hardly ever happens!;-) Actually he wouldn’t have won if Johannes Bø hadn’t missed two targets in his third shoot when he was well in control of the race. Simon Schempp was second proving he has a last found some consistency and Jakov Fak came in third holding off the challenge from a tired looking Johannes Bø. Vladimir Iliev added to his 19th place in the Sprint with an 11th place here which is great news for Bulgarian biathlon and other good races were had by Quentin Fillon Maillet (FRA) 45th-15th, Fredrik Lindstrom 47th-22nd and Leif Nordgren (USA) 51st-37th.

Overall Hochfilzen was a great race weekend and thank god they got the snow to let it go ahead. Kaisa Makarainen extended her lead in the yellow bib and Martin Fourcade will wear the men’s next week after wrestling it from Svendsen. Thursday is when we race again in Pokljuka and with the great results form the Slovenia biathletes the home crowd will be really looking forward to it. The biathlete will be looking forward to a sneaky Kremna Rezina(delicious Slovenian dessert!) down in Bled too! I really enjoyed all the races in Austria and I also enjoyed ‘Filzen you in!

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Martin Femsteinevik: The Interview

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Today’s subject is young Norwegian biathlete Martin Femsteinevik. He was born on the 16th of February 1994 and took part in last year’s Youth/Junior World Championships where he achieved a best placed finish of 5th in the Junior Men’s Individual race. He is obviously very passionate about biathlon and is a pretty inspirational young man as you will soon read!

You can follow Martin on Twitter: @MFemsteinevik

Biathlon is really popular in Norway and therefore really competitive. Why did you want to be a biathlete and how hard is it to get into the team?

I tried biathlon for the first time when I was 6 years old. My dad had a biathlon rifle from when he was young, and I got to try it then. After those shots I really thought this was fun, and it was something I wanted to do more of. So when I was 7 years old (almost 8) I started to compete in biathlon races. After the first race I was so happy and satisfied that I wanted to continue my career. And after that it has just become more and more biathlon for me.
I got another motivational boost were I really said to myself that I want to be among the best biathletes in the world when I was 13.5 years old. At that time I was diagnosed with leukemia (blood cancer) and one of the first things I thought and said to myself was that I am gonna get through this, and come back to biathlon to be one of the best athletes in the world. And I think that when I was sick I saved up so much motivation to come back to biathlon that I could go on for many more years.

It is really hard to get into the Norwegian national team in biathlon. There are many good athletes in Norway that have never been on a national team, but still could have been high on the lists in the IBU cup or even taken points in the World cup. Because of this top Norwegian biathletes always try to become better and develop both their strong and weak sides. This means that Norwegian biathlon still can be really good for more years.

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?

This season is the first season I am not attending any school. So it will be a new experience for me. In the last seasons I have attended a secondary school were we had training between lessons four times a week. This has really helped me, both with getting through my education with some motivation to perform well in school, and to make me a better biathlete.
Outside biathlon I do not have a social life like other persons of my age. I come from a really small place in the western part of Norway, and most of my friends are or have been biathletes. So I´m social with friends at competitions and training camps. Some might say that I am losing something when I´m so dedicated to my sport, but for me biathlon is life and therefore I think that I´m not losing anything.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I have some local companies that are funding me, but I also take some of the cost myself. However the Norwegian biathlon union has a lot of money, so when we are traveling to training camps with the national junior team NSSF pays the travel, accommodation and food. And also when competing in Junior World Champs IBU cup or World Cup NSSF pays for everything. So that means that you do not have to be really rich to be a biathlete in Norway.
When it comes to equipment athletes on national teams get clothes from NSSF´s clothing sponsor SWIX and when it comes to boots and skis I have a contract with Rossignol.

Will you be competing in Raubichi in the World Youth/Junior Championships? What is the selection criteria for your country?

I hope so, but there haven´t been any qualifying races yet. We will have three weekends of Norwegian cup, with a total of six races where the four best races count in the qualifying. The races will be in early December, early January and mid/late January.

What the best and worst thing about being a biathlete?

The best thing about being a biathlete is that I get to do what I love every day.
I cannot come up with anything that I will name as the worst thing about being a biathlete because I like almost everything about it.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

I would steal Martin Fourcade´s way to ski. The way he plays and tries different techniques during a race, from sprinting the last few hundred meters before the shooting to just relax in the middle of a small group on the last lap. He has the ability to change his plans depending on how he and the athletes around him perform. And I think that this is one of the reasons that he has become the best overall biathlete for the last three seasons.

What would you like to change about biathlon? (the rules, equipment, schedule etc).

Today I can´t come up with anything that I want to change about biathlon. The IBU have done a really great job by making biathlon an extremely TV-friendly sport with short skiing courses and man vs. man shootouts on the shooting field. So people think that it is very exciting. Here in Norway most people that I speak with tell me that they think biathlon is the most exciting sport to watch on the TV because nothing is settled until the last shot is fired, anything can happen. And that is what is so good about biathlon. And now the TV-companies make sure we get brilliant pictures both from the shooting range and the track, so I think that biathlon is good as it is today. But we must of course try to develop and evolve biathlon further when that is necessary.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)

In biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is a big role model for me. He has competed in the absolute world class for over 20 years, since before I was born. This means that from the very first time I tried biathlon he was among the best in the world, and he has been that ever since. Also he is Norwegian, and to have a person like him to look up to for a young biathlete has been great. He is extremely detail oriented and everything he does is planned so that he can perform as well as possible. I think that this is what has made him so good. He has always looked at what he can do better and tried to develop himself and his equipment as fast as possible. And this is one of the main reasons I have him as a role model because he has done so much for biathlon in his career.

What’s your typical day like?

I normally wake up 7.30 then breakfast. Start the first training session between 8.30 and 9.00. Lunch 11.00 – 12.00. Relaxing until next training session. 15.30 – 16.00 second training session. 18.00 dinner 22.00 go to bed.

Norway has many world class biathletes. Do you ever get to train with Bjoerndalen or Svendsen or do they help you with tips and advice? Does Emil give free shampoo to everyone?

As I live in western Norway I do not see the world class Norwegian biathletes so often. Most of them live in the eastern part of Norway, about 7 hours travel by car from where I live. But I sometimes meet them when we are on training camps. But I do not train with them or get tips from them now. I guess they are occupied with themselves, and trying to do their best to get ready for a new season.
I have not gotten any shampoo from Emil yet! hehe

Does your rifle have a name?

No I have not given my rifle a name. But considering the time I use to take care of it I might have to give it a name soon. But for now its just the rifle.

Describe yourself in three words.

Impatient, detailed, vigilant

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Nordic heritage center (Presque Isle)

Favourite biathlete (past or present): Raphaèl Poirèe

Favourite event:(sprint, pursuit etc): Mass start / Relay

Favourite/best race of your career so far? Junior Norwegian championships 2013 (2 individual golds, and best leg time on the relay)

Favourite food: «Pinnakjøtt» traditional Norwegian christmas food, sheep meat with potatoes and mashed turnips

Favourite singer/band: The Killers

Favourite film: James Bond: Skyfall

Favourite sports team: Real Madrid FC

Favourite TV show: Top Gear

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