Tag Archives: British biathlon

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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Marcel Laponder: The Interview!

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Marcel Laponder was born in Pretoria, South Africa on the 23rd of May 1978. He competed for Great Britain after he moved to the UK when he was 21 and joined the British Army. It was through the army that he discovered biathlon and took up the sport in 2005. He made his World Cup debut in 2008 and his best result was 57th place which came in the Sprint race in Khanty-Mansiysk in season 2010/11. Unfortunately he has had to announce his retirement from the sport due to commitments with the army.

You can like Marcel’s Facebook Page: Marcel Laponder Biathlete


What was your best or favourite race from your biathlon career?

2011 Altenberg IBU Cup Pursuit race where I shot 0 0 0 0 going from 51st to 35th place and a then still active German Athlete said ”how did you do that dude!” That athlete was Daniel Graf who later was to become my coach.


What is your best memory from your biathlon career?

Too many… every race is special and is a honour and privilege to start in. One of those memories would be qualifying for the World Championships pursuit race in Khanty Mansiysk. This year getting my first chance to start the Relay as the first leg in the relay mass starts. The past season’s team atmosphere and camaraderie was memorable.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to become a professional biathlete?


The difference between making it and not is having the correct mind set. Biathlon is brutal not only physically but also full of disappointments which is over come by being mentally strong and having the confidence to believe you can achieve it. What you think will have a huge affect as this translates in to not only shooting reaction but also how you approach training and racing. Of course this alone is no guarantee and the correct smart hard training comes with it and of course a little bit of talent and luck.

You know Scott Dixon and Amanda Lightfoot very well. How do you think they will do this season?

Scott is still young and still has a bright future ahead of him, his strength in the past like his father has been his shooting. As long as Scott can keep securing sponsorship then he is the future of British Biathlon. His focus this season will be to qualify for the next OWG.

Amanda has the hunger for Biathlon. Her training program is brutal and for this she needs to be a tough cookie which she achieves by being mentally strong which also shows in her aggressive racing style. As long as Amanda keeps competing for a bit longer then she has it in her to one day to potentially achieve a top 30 or better. It is not a question if rather a question of when she will achieve it. This past season alone there was at least one opportunity where she nearly achieved this. Don’t forget she started really late in the sport, compared to other athletes who started when they were kids and compared to Amanda who would still be in their teens in terms of training years, then what she has achieved is pretty impressive.

What’s the situation in the Men’s Team this year? Will there be enough guys for the Relay team? What about for the IBU Cup?

Last year we were not able to enter all the relay events due to Jacko and Kevin who retired, also funding was limited for the far flung events in America. This has meant that as a nation we have dropped a start slot in the World Cup. One of the usual World Cup men will probably also be racing on IBU Cup due to the start slot this year. If there is enough qualified athletes then GBR could potentially enter the Relay on the World Cup although the priority this year is OWG. For IBU Cup we have upcoming athletes who are being trained by ex Olympian athlete Lee Jackson (Jacko). So his athletes will most likely fill the available IBU Cup spots.


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

Hochfilzen. I love the course with the fast technical corners and the short up and downs. It has a hard range approach which makes things interesting, I feel at home there and generally have always had descent results in Hocky. Also Forni Avoltri is a track which I love, it is an IBU Cup course. A small venue which has a hard track tucked away in the mountains with stunning scenery.

Perhaps not really a track but location. Frassinoro, Italy, which hosts the Frassinoro Summer biathlon festival, super friendly biathlon loving town and a great event with Italian flair.


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

Marie Dorin Habert and Tim Burke must be some of the humblest athletes and this I respect. Simon Fourcade I also like and is an athlete that I would really like to see do well.

Does your rifle have a name?

Hmm no

Describe yourself in three words.

Hmm I didn’t know so I asked three people:
my wife says: chilled out
Scott says: reliable
Amanda says: honest

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): I need to mention two, Canada and Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Quentin Fillon Maillet has a sweet rifle stock.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): I really like the suit of Finland this year.
Favourite shooting range: Hochfilzen
Lucky bib number: 23 🙂
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Ha easy… Scott Dixon…watching him attempting to pack his bag to travel to the next event is entertainment for hours.
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Karoly Gombos from Hungry always easy to talk to and approachable. The Japanese coaches are probably some of the friendliest on circuit.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Hard question to pin point, so many small things that add up. Being able to train in beautiful locations, the people and places that I meet and see. The race atmosphere created by the crowds. Its a hard sport with so many variables and just being given the chance to see if I can do it makes it worth it.

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Scott Dixon: The Interview 2!!!

dixonint

Back by popular demand -well he is popular so I demanded it – it’s Scott Dixon! The 21-year-old Brit has made a few changes over the summer in his residence and his coaches and is looking forward to the new season. He kindly took some time before the season gets under way to tell us all about his training and his goals for the World Cup.

You can follow Scott’s progress on his Facebook page: Scott Dixon Biathlete.

First and most importantly you turned 21 over the summer. Did you get any good presents? Did you celebrate with a wild party?

Well, I have never been much of a crazy party animal, but I was lucky enough to move to a beautiful location in France (Aix-Les-Bains) with my girlfriend. We are both able to train in the area as Katie competes in Figure Skating and there are good facilities in Annecy. I am able to train in La Féclaz which is a relatively new development and the set up there is of a very high standard.

You have 3 new coaches in France one of whom is Alexis Boeuf. What are they like as coaches and what have you learned from them?

I really like all of my coaches. They are all very helpful and have a lot of knowledge to share. It has been interesting for me to see how differently two great Biathlon nations operate and learn how two different approaches to training can be so effective.

You went to Corsica for the French Summer Roller Ski Championships. How did that go? I believe you were caught up in an accident there also – what happened?

I was training on the beautiful island of Corsica with my team and unfortunately, I was caught up in an accident. I was there to compete at the French National Summer Roller Ski championships. The Island is criss-crossed with great roads to explore on roller skis, and about 40 minutes into a 55km loop, a group of over 8 of us came quickly upon a very hard corner at 45kmph. The man who cycled the course the previous day had forgotten that the corner was that soon in the skate. There was no time to react and about six of us piled into the debris at the side of the road, including rocks. I lost a lot of skin! Two athletes were taken to hospital by ambulance and I was taken back to our accommodation to be bandaged up. I didn’t sleep much that night and racing was a nightmare two days later with a lot less skin left on my left leg!

Last year you had the very uncommon compartmental syndrome in the abdominal muscles and this summer a double pole machine fell on your head! Why do these things happen to you?!

Well the list of unfortunate things doesn’t stop at compartmental syndrome and hostile gym machines.

My list is disturbingly long. It has come to a point in my process as an athlete when I have to ask myself if these incidents have come around due to my own stupidity or lack of restraint in certain situations. I think there is an element of that, I must admit, but I also think I have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time a few times. On the other hand a lot of luck has come my way, and I tend to forget that in the face of all my bad luck. It’s generally how I confuse ‘sod’s law’ for just life as it comes in general.

You were also competing in Arcon against all the French Biathletes recently. How was that experience?

Arcon was interesting. I shot 80% which was slightly disappointing and I skied very slowly compared to my expectations. It was very soon after my injury so I was told not to see it as a negative and more as an experience. However, I couldn’t help feeling I had let myself down somehow. Any athlete can relate to this I am sure.

What are your goals for this season?

I am now hoping to maintain my World Cup qualifier by competing well on World cup instead of having to re-qualify on the IBU cup. I know I am capable of this as I did so twice at last year’s World Championships. The qualification points are harder to achieve with the new IBU points system, but I am hoping that with good improvement from last year I will be ready to achieve this goal.

What are your strengths as a biathlete and what are your weaknesses? Do you have anything that you specifically want to improve before next season?

My main strength is my shooting. Last year I finished the season with an overall hit rate of 85% and managed to clear 20/20 and the next day 10/10 which is a clear personal best for me. My ski speed however is a big weakness. With so many setbacks, my progress is not where I hoped to see it at this point. If everything goes to plan in the coming months, I will see improvements in my ski speed. I will be working extremely hard to improve this aspect of my performance.

British Biathlon is looking for new sponsorship again. How will it affect you if it doesn’t get the funds it needs? Will you be able to go to the North American rounds for example?

I try to keep the issue out of my mind because there is very little I can do to affect it. I will not attend the races in North America due to this funding issue which is a shame, but it may also mean more time to get in good shape for the World Championships. So despite the clear negative there is a very clear positive I can take from it. I also believe with the passionate team that is the BBU that sponsorship will be found soon.

Lee Jackson and Kevin Kane have both retired. What affect will that have on the team and on you personally?


I was sad to see them both retire. Kevin was somewhat of a mentor for me in my first few years, keeping me under control and trying to pare down some of my typical teenage bad habits. So now at 21 I feel a bit old for my age, when new guys are selected for the team and I find myself pointing out things that I was guilty of not so long ago (mainly Biathlon related as I am still an ”admin case” around the house). Jackson is now working closely with the IBU cup team and is still very much in the system. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him race again. That applies for both of them in fact, as we don’t have enough people qualified for a relay without them.

Will we see you and Amanda Lightfoot in the Single Mixed Relay this season? They are on the same day as the Mixed Relays again but you two could do really well in it I think.

Sadly not this season, unless attending North America becomes an option, as that is the only remaining Single mixed relay this season. However, I believe that this is the event of the future for Amanda and me. Is a podium possible in the future? I don’t see why not!

We know you are a bit of a biathlon geek! Do you have any predictions for who you think will do well this season and maybe a younger biathlete we should be keeping our eye on?

Of course I am, like everyone I know who started watching casually and fell in love with the sport. I have a strong suspicion that Simon Schempp will be the Overall World Cup winner this year. I believe that Jean-Guillaume Beatrix will win a pursuit or mass start competition this season, and hopefully more than one. Andrejs Rastorgujevs will be one of the fastest on the track over the whole season with a podium finish and Tarjei Bø will be top three in the Overall World Cup rankings at the end of the season. Keep an eye on Fabien Claude, he is extremely fast, just a bit older than me and more consistent in his shooting. He will be one of the top names on World Cup in the coming years. Look out for Justine Braisaz (also French) for the women. With several World Cup starts already she has a big future ahead of her I think.

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Amanda Lightfoot: The Interview!

lightfoot

Amanda Lightfoot is Great Britain’s top female biathlete. She was born on the 30th of January 1987 and is currently in the British Army. She is from the North East of England but lives and trains in Norway. Her best result was at the World Championships in Khanty Mansiysk in 2011 which was a 34th place finish. Her top result on the World Cup is 46th which she is determined to change this season.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter: @amandabiathlon1
You can like her Facebook page: Amanda Lightfoot Biathlete- Fan Page

Why did you become a biathlete?

I would have to say biathlon chose me, I had not even heard of the sport. I was actually on duty in the army out in Iraq when I got asked if I would like to go skiing for some adventure training when I returned and of course I jumped at the chance having never skied in my life before.

As you are still in the British Army do you still have military duties to carry out or do they let you concentrate on biathlon? (in case Britain has to go to war with Norway?!!)

The military are fantastic to me, they allow me to train full time as long as I can keep my military career and sporting career on a level with each other. For this I complete the necessary military courses when needed so when I return to the military full time I will fit back in no problem.

There have been a few retirements from the British team this year. What do you think it will be like without Lee Jackson and Kevin Kane? Will there be more pressure on you as one of the more experienced members of the team now?

I think they will be missed in the men’s team this year especially the relays, but I feel that there are also some up and coming young stars in our team and they will take their place and bring the men’s team back up to the standard it was if not even better.

Many of your best results come at World Championships. Why do you think that is? Do you love the big occasions?

I ask myself the same question. But yes I do love the World Championships and look forward to this event every year. I’m hoping for the same this year in Oslo as Norway has become my second home and it would be great to perform well here.

What training have you done so far this summer and what’s the plan until the start of the season?

I have done a lot of training so far this summer involving long endurance sessions, hard intervals, strength based workouts in the gym, balance and core, running, actually the list could go on and on, let’s just say I feel well prepared for the up coming season.

I will now be attending a couple of camps in Ruhpolding before the season and also aim to go onto snow at the beginning of November.

What are your goals for the coming season?

My goals for this season are:
To improve my shooting percentages in both prone and standing from last year.
I am aiming to be in the Top 40 on the World Cup, and I also believe a Top 30 finish is achievable when I bring everything together on the day.
To ski technically better overall.
To be happy and continue to absolutely love what I do.

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

I do not have any personal sponsors although the Army pay me a wage, this gets spent monthly on living costs i.e accommodation, food, travel, equipment , physiotherapy and leaves little for anything else. The team has now lost its main financial sponsor, so we are currently looking for a new sponsor to believe in us and Great Britain’s future in biathlon. So if you are reading this and are interested or know a company who might be then please get in contact with the British Biathlon Union or send an email to info@britishbiathlon.com . It would be amazing.

Describe your typical race day. What time do you get up? What do you eat? etc.

My Race Day:

Depending on when the race starts is dependent on what time I get up. But I don’t normally sleep past 9am.

First a morning light run to mobilise the body and kick start my metabolism.

Breakfast- coffee!!!! I can not function without a morning coffee and if I could, I would take my nespresso machine in my suitcase the whole season.
I do not have any specific breakfast items, it depends on what is available at each venue, but porridge is always good in the winter.

Then I am usually in my room normally dry firing and organising my race bag and race clothes.

Then it’s relaxing time either read a book, watch some TV , or sing along to every song on my playlist (usually the latter).

Before I leave for the race I do visualisation taking my mind around the whole course having a perfect race and every time at the end I’m always stood on that podium.. 😁🇬🇧 Maybe one day it will happen for real!

Then it’s down to the stadium to test and pick my race skis , zero my rifle ready for the race and give myself a good warm up before the start.

What are your strengths as a biathlete and what are your weaknesses? Do you have anything that you specifically want to improve before next season?

I would say my “weakness” is probably my technique and this is also the main thing I want to improve on this year.

My strengths include my strong mind. I feel I am quite a tough girl in the mind and can really push myself to the limit. Believing in myself is a massive strength, I believe that nothing is impossible if you work your hardest for it. I feel my shooting will become a strength this year also, as last year results proved a massive need for improvement, but I have applied so much time into it this summer and now I’m feeling more confident than ever. I have a lot of strengths and I don’t really like to think of the word weaknesses I prefer the term goals. 🙂

Can we expect to see you in the Single Mixed Relay this year or do you think the schedule will mean it’s not possible?

I am sure you will see Great Britain competing in the Single Mixed Relays this year, I think this is such a great competition especially for the spectators. It’s not my strongest race but I’m looking forward to competing in it for sure and seeing what’s possible.

Does your rifle have a name?

My rifle does not have a name but I’m open to suggestions?? Haha.

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined / #alwayssomething

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Oberhof
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Ole Einar Bjørndalen
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Sprint
Favourite/best race of your career so far? Nove Mesto Mixed Relay coming out of the range on the first leg as race leader.., amazing and unforgettable.
Favourite food: Can I have chocolate as a food? Lol In fact roasted marshmallows covered in melted chocolate. Yum! But if I had to choose a ‘Real Food’ I would say a typical British Sunday dinner with roasted chicken, vegetables, potatoes and gravy. It’s what I miss when I’m in Norway.
Favourite singer/band: Michael Jackson I have to start dancing and singing when I hear his music. He’s epic!
Favourite film: Dirty Dancing. I watched this repeatedly when I was a teenager and always wanted to find a Patrick Swayze to do the lift. (You will only know what I mean if you have watched the film) lol
Favourite sports team: Sunderland
Favourite TV show: The Vampire Diaries.

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Sofie Hopkins: The Interview!

hopkins

18-year-old Sofie Hopkins from Great Britain is a great example of the perseverance you need to become a biathlete. Coming from a country where biathlon is not popular it is a very difficult career to choose and requires a lot of sacrifice and determination as well as courage. Here she talks about her goals for the future and her clear love of the sport.

You can follow Sofie on Twitter: @Sofiehops
She has a Facebook page: Sofie Hopkins (Sportsperson)
She has her own blog: https://landofsofie.wordpress.com/

Biathlon isn’t a big sport in Great Britain. How did you discover it and why did you want to become a biathlete?
I first discovered biathlon through my Dad’s Army friend as he had done a bit of biathlon with the military. He also was first to suggest the idea as at the time I was competing in National Cross Country and Hockey Events with the Army Cadet Force which I really enjoyed. I knew then I wanted to pursue a career in a sport and that’s when my Dad’s friend turned around and observed that “I had really big feet” (I was a size 9 when I was 13) and my build was similar to most biathletes already. I then searched biathlon online and I instantly fell in love with it and watched it everyday for a month on youtube. My Dad asked me if I really wanted to do such an insane sport and if was I willing to dedicate my time as he explained it would be a lot of sacrifice. I replied with a yes and from that day on that is exactly what I have done.

How much and what kind of training do you? Do you have a coach?
I train 5 days a week, however it has been cut down to 3 at the moment due to my A Level exams. I use roller skis for 4 of the days where I do endurance one day, technique another and then focus on speed wherever I can fit it in. I also go to the gym once a week where I do biathlon specific exercises, for example: pulling down on wires but adding weight each time. I am also an avid runner and like to do the occasional 10km once every other week as I still compete in local running competitions to get more experience in terms of competing. I’m also very fortunate to use the uphill slope at the ski centre in Xscape, Castleford as the staff kindly allow me to use the uphill and junior slope at 6am before customers arrive. After I have done my one and a half hours of skiing I then do another hour of Alpine Skiing with The Lions Ski Club as I also really enjoy other skiing disciplines and it is helpful as I can usually incorporate some of the skills into my biathlon. My coach is my Dad as he has supported me throughout my Biathlon journey and our close father and daughter relationship has really helped. My Dad is not a skiing coach, but after serving as an officer in the military as a Sniper for over 20 years and also qualifying to be an NRA coach he knows a lot about shooting. He gave up his job in the Army to focus on training me, which means the world to me.The skiing side was purely self-taught from watching youtube videos and also gathering tips from many other people over the years. Shooting has also been a big part of my life as I started shooting at the age of 5 where me and my father would go out and hunt for rabbits.

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 find that my flexible timetable at college helps me to fit in my training perfectly as most of the time I only do quarter or half days of lessons. This allows me to do a lot of training, although when I get home at 6pm then I focus on my studies for a good 4 hours before getting an early night. However due to the intensity of my training I do find it very hard to concentrate on my work and sometimes end up falling asleep very early whilst I’m doing my homework. In terms of my social life I feel that in my first 2 years I put my social life on hold. I went to occasional events to support my other friends in their future careers, however training dominated most of my time. I now do squeeze in time to see my friends on a weekend as I think that it’s good to have some free time to socialise as it creates a good balance between the two. If I wasn’t training for biathlon I really don’t know what I would be doing. Biathlon has changed my life for the better. It has become a part of who I am.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?
I do not receive any “official” long term funding at the moment. However I have recently secured a sponsorship deal with Eley Ammunition who are supplying me with 5,000 rounds a year and Eley merchandise which has been a big help. The money for travelling and equipment is all saved and self raised by me and my parents. I go skiing at a Caravan Park near where I live and by doing raffles and just by talking to people on the campsite we managed to raise a £100 pound in 1 week, which is incredible. The manager on the site also shaved his hair off last year to raise money for me and we made an immense amount of money and it was a brilliant day for me and all the caravaners. If we are not doing raffles or anything special a lot of people I meet give me a donation out of the kindness of their hearts and I’m forever grateful. In terms of my rifle which is not cheap my parents managed to save up £1000 pounds which we knew wasn’t enough and was preying on our minds for months. However luckily the owner of the Shooting ground where I shoot twice a week ordered my Anschutz rifle and paid the rest of the money for it. He also got a good friend to make me my own range, which in total cost £2000 pounds. I can’t believe how generous people have been. Me and my Father over the past four years wrote letter after to letter to every different company you could think of and all we got was a resounding “no” or no response at all. The first year me and my parents planned a Summer Trip to the DKB Skihalle in Oberhof we had to scrape what money we had together to get there. We couldn’t afford a plane or an apartment so my Dad drove his car what seemed liked 3000+ miles over the border at Dover all the way down to Oberhof where we had to find a campsite and sleep in a tent. Even with a low budget we have always tried to get there. I’ve always said you have to sacrifice for what you love.

Did you go to the British Championships in Ruhpolding? How did you do and what did you learn from the experience?
This year was my second year of competing at the British Championships and I learnt an awful lot. I didn’t do as well as the previous year, but after a week of analysing what went wrong I am really grateful that the slips ups happened so I can work on them. The biggest thing I learnt not only about competing, but about myself was that I can not achieve under pressure. I started off really well on the 7.5km Sprint, which I wasn’t aware of until I got pulled off as everything started going in slow motion around me and I just collapsed under the pressure to achieve as I had done so well the year before.

For more about this you can read Sofie’s thoughts on her blog here: https://landofsofie.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-pressures-of-competition-my-story/

What are your goals for the rest of this year and the future?
My goals for this year was to build up my confidence in a competition scenario again which I feel I have already conquered through the different competitions I have been entering since January and I now feel comfortable and a competitive scene has no longer become overwhelming. My long term future goals is to get to the highest level in the sport that I can. I would love to one day be in the World Cup, it would be an honour to be skiing with some of the Worlds greatest biathletes!

What are your strengths as a biathlete and what are your weaknesses? Do you have anything that you specifically want to work on just now?
I feel my strengths are on the range as I’ve been shooting since I was 5 years old so it is pretty much second nature to me. However as far as weaknesses my speed on the flats has always been an issue. I do think that it is slowly improving as people have noticed that my glide technique (or Skate 1) has improved tenfold in comparison to what it was a year ago. If I were to be my own critic I now think that maintaining speed around a course is a big weakness overall and hopefully my summer training regime will help me to practice and perfect this.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?
I think I would have to borrow Darya Domracheva’s technique. She is so effortless on the snow, but still so fast. Although it’s obviously really tough she makes it look like a walk in the park whilst also making it look stylish in some way.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)
My biathlon heroine is hands down Magdalena Neuner. She has won so many titles and did it in such a short space of time. I really admire her work ethic and also the way she was confident to criticise some training methods and try ones that she had created herself. My ultimate role model is my Dad, he has such a great attitude to life and sacrificed so much to give me the best life possible and make sure I do everything with my best efforts. He has always encouraged me to do things that I have been scared or unsure about so that I have no fear, which has made me stronger and more confident. My Dad has also done lots of great things in his life independently and I hope to follow in his footsteps and make him proud!

What do you do to relax and forget about biathlon for a bit?
I find a day with my friends and having a catch up over a cup of tea is the perfect way to switch off from training. I like to keep my friends and my work (as in training) separate, although of course they are very supportive and I always keep them up to date with my progress as they generally find it interesting listening to my stories. If I’m not doing that I will sit on the sofa watching movies or reading books for long periods of time. Once I’m in a good book you can’t take me away!

Describe yourself in three words.
Shy, Serious and Loving.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track:Oberhof
Favourite biathlete (past or present):Martin Fourcade
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Individual
Favourite/best race of your career so far? British Championships 2015, 12.5km Women’s Individual
Favourite food: Olives
Favourite singer/band: Jackie Evancho
Favourite film: The Burbs
Favourite TV show: Sherlock Holmes

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Scott Dixon: The Interview!

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In the last of my series of interviews with Junior biathletes this season I spoke to Great Britain’s Scott Dixon. Scott was born on the 9th of July 1994 and so this is his final year as a Junior. He has already competed on the IBU and the World Cup and is currently in Finland for the Senior World Championships. He achieved his best result in the Juniors this year finishing in 18th place in the Individual 15km an improvement of 5 places from last year in Presque Isle. He is now living and training in Norway. His Dad is 6 time Olympian, biathlon coach and Eurosport commentator Mike Dixon. Scott is possibly the only biathlete who is sponsored by a castle!

Scott has a Facebook page: Scott Dixon Biathlete

Why did you become a biathlete? Did your Dad make you do it or did you have a choice?!! 😉

I was very stubborn as a teenager, never committing fully to one thing at a time. I liked to play Rugby and Football and Biathlon was just the different sport that separated me from the normality of school life. I became very passionate about Biathlon when I was 16. This is when I couldn’t miss a race on T.V and if I did I would have to watch it at the next available time. I knew then that biathlon was my passion and I had to pursue it.

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 year I have been living in Norway, trying to learn the language which has been interesting! My interests are almost entirely sport based and my plan is to take a sport psychology (open university) course this year. Balancing a social life with training, I think, is not too difficult. Many top athletes may surprise you by how often they relax and socialise. I have to plan quite carefully my visits home to the UK to visit my family and girlfriend. She lives in England and my family in Scotland. So it is important to minimise travel and expenses in this case.

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

My head sponsor ‘Heaver Castle & Gardens’ contributes enormously to my expenses in Norway. The basis of this sponsorship is my personal belief that I can one day compete amongst the very best in the world. I think my current location and level of motivation is perfect for making this happen. RMA sports kindly sponsor me and help me greatly with kit. Always reliable and with the best prices on so much kit. I know without the support from this company I would not be where I am now.

What were your goals for the Junior World Championships in Raubichi? Did you achieve them? Were you happy with your overall performances?

At the end of last season (2013/14) I decided that I am capable of achieving a top 10 at this year’s Junior World Championships in Belarus. I had to improve my overall game but most specifically, my ski speed. I was training along side some of the top Norwegian Juniors as part of team ‘Statkraft Lillehammer’ and felt like I was improving dramatically on the shooting range and on the skis. Sadly, in mid October I got ‘Compartment Syndrome’ in my lower abdominal muscles by simply running gently down a mountain after a hard session. A very rare and freak occurrence that put me out of training at a crucial time for over 120 hours of planned training. I spoke with my coach Sverre T. Roiseland to discuss/manage my expectations and figure out what I could expect from myself when I got back into full training and what to expect at the Junior World Championships. My goals did not change (perhaps this was naive) but I had to be prepared for a slower ski speed than initially anticipated and therefore try not to be disappointed if I do not achieve this goal.

The Junior World Championships approached very quickly and I felt like my ski form was approaching at the right time, which was good! My shooting had taken a positive turn for the best at the British Championships where I cleared my first ever Individual 20/20 and the next day the sprint 10/10. This was a good confidence boost for Minsk. However, shooting is a cruel game. If you think about it too much everything can change.

Minsk arrived and I was delighted with many aspects of my performance. If someone told me I would hit 38/40 in the Individual and Pursuit I probably wouldn’t have believed it. So this was an enormous achievement for me. Also being able to identify why I had 4 errors in the Sprint and then act on it for the next day was a big achievement. My 18th place was emotional. It is a personal best but we had some difficulties with our skis on the day and the entire British teams form on the skis really took a beating. With one mistake I knew it is possible to make a top 10! I was gutted.

The Sprint saw me failing to stick to my routine in the range. Almost a valuable lesson worth having, even at this crucial time because I was able to rectify this for the pursuit the next day. Starting the pursuit in 49th and moving up 18 places to 31st was a fantastic experience, missing 1 target again. This is another big achievement for me. What a shame I didn’t do better in the sprint.

What did you learn from the Championships? What do you need to improve and what are your plans to do it?

I learned a great deal about discipline on the shooting range. How so many factors can influence your shooting and how you have to focus on yourself, shutting out all distractions. Knowing this and implementing it are two very different things. It will take years to master but I think I am on the right path.

The British team are on a small budget and we certainly can’t expect to compete for the best skis on the field every event. We couldn’t bring a wax man with us to the Championships. (We have a wax man on the World Cup) I need to learn to accept this until our budget increases and strive to do everything I can personally to make the best of my situation rather than acting emotionally on it. I allow this to use up far too much mental energy.

I will improve my skiing speed. I have a fantastic coach and I know that with his advice I will make big leaps in my ski speed for next year. Hopefully I will avoid injury and see a good improvement come next season.

You have already raced on the World Cup. What is it like racing against the likes of Bjoerndalen and Fourcade? Is it inspirational or a bit nerve wracking or maybe both?

I love it, however I am always gutted to miss watching these races because I enjoy them so much. I can’t complain really because I get to compete against the athletes I love watching compete. I am looking forward to the day I can begin making an impression on the World Cup circuit.

You had a bit of an unusual injury earlier in the season. Can you tell me what happened and is the problem solved now?

I had Compartment Syndrome in my lower abdominal muscles. It is normally an injury people suffer in the lower legs or forearms and is extremely rare in the abs. In the Norwegian hospital, of four Doctors (one of which was a physio for a national Ice hockey team) only one of them had seen this specific injury before in this area of the body. He must have called me a ‘Rare Bird’ a thousand times.

I was running innocently down a mountain after a pretty crazy hard 6 x 5 minute running interval session up it. I felt a slow onset of pain, like a stitch, in my abs above my groin and ignored it for quite some time. I got back to the car after the session and from there until I got back to my house, I concluded something was seriously wrong as I couldn’t lift my leg to use the clutch any more.

I was taken to hospital by my coaches who looked after me very well. I am lucky to be a part of such a positive team. After being treated for my injury that evening I went home to recover in England and Scotland for quite some time. I was very sad to miss out on the training camp that week.

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

I am young and doing exactly what I want to do with my life. Maybe it isn’t always a smooth ride but I enjoy it. I feel that I should take advantage of my situation and continue to enjoy it while there is good progress. Some times, things that are out of your control have a massive influence on your performance. This is frustrating, especially when you work so hard for your goals.

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

A tough question, I think I want to earn all my characteristics and add my own unique touch to them. I think that Andrejs Rastorgujevs is the best example of a hungry athlete. He wants to win and he is an underdog from an under funded nation like mine. Seeing people like him making it to the top reinforces my belief that I can do it.

Can you describe your routine on a race day? When do you get up, eat, warm up, what you do after the race etc.

Race days used to be so stressful, I was never organised. But now I always make a list of what I need to take to the course, what times I need to be there etc. This way I don’t get stressed! I always start my day with a 5-15minute jog to get the body and mind ready for action. I try and eat a good amount in the morning, hopefully porridge is on the menu but I settle for near enough anything with carbs. It isn’t necessary to over eat before the race, just enough not to be hungry on the start line so this depends on my start time as to what I eat that day.

Before zero starts (45 minutes before the race starts) I normally test the skis I have been given for that day to determine which are running fastest. The reason being that each ski has a different ‘grind’ in the base and therefore runs differently in different snow conditions. Once selected I am then free to Zero my weapon for the days conditions.

I then take my start time and subtract about 40 minutes from it and this is when I will start my warm up. Once complete, I am ready to unleash the beast! Which hopefully is ready to go!

Your Dad used to be your coach. How did that work in practice? Can you separate training and parenting? Does he start a lot of sentences with “Well when I was a biathlete we used to….” or “we didn’t do that in my day son” !! 😉

It was fantastic. I know his raw positivity and natural hard working attitude was a brilliant guide in my early years as a Biathlete. Something I am extremely thankful for and perhaps grateful enough for it in my early days. In my middle teenage years I was stubborn and difficult to manage like most teenagers but my Dad was always positive, supportive and understanding despite my difficult nature at times! In the last two years I really hope I have learned to appreciate the fantastic opportunity I have been given and learn from the mistakes I have made, am making and will make in the future.

When my Dad starts a sentence like that, he is normally right anyway to be honest!

Does your rifle have a name?

I’m afraid not!

Describe yourself in three words.

Motivated, Hungry (mostly for food but also for success from time to time) and Content.

Quick fire Questions:


Favourite biathlon track
: Idre – Sweden, followed closely by Raubichi, Belarus.
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Andrejs Rastorgujevs!
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): I like the Individual, it is a brain game! To spectate – the mass start!
Favourite/best race of your career so far? The 12.5km Pursuit at the Junior World Champs. I had a terrible Sprint the day before. I started the Pursuit in 49th position but managed to have one of my best races ever in the shooting range, moving me up 18 places. It was such fun going past people on the penalty loop having shot 1 – 0 – 0 – 0.
Favourite food: I love salmon, Mushrooms (creamy sauce) with rice!
Favourite singer/band: Imagine Dragons
Favourite film: I love mind twisting films, Inception is pretty great! Source code is also up there with Cloud Atlas… This list goes on.
Favourite sports team: I don’t really watch football so I guess team Sky. Based on their incredibly professional attitude.
Favourite TV show: Family Guy

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Robert Sircus: The Interview!

sircus

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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