Tag Archives: British biathlon

Shawna Pendry: The Interview!

Photo courtesy of Shawna Pendry.

Shawna Pendry is a 17-year-old British biathlete who is based in France. She was born in England but moved to France aged four. She started cross country skiing when she was eight and biathlon at eleven in Font-Romeo where Simon and Martin Fourcade started. Last season was her first competing internationally on the IBU Junior Cup.

Check out her website: https://shawna-pendry.site123.me/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I became a biathlete because my best friend cross country skied and it looked fun so I also joined the ski club, a few years later we started shooting and I loved it! Since then I have been doing biathlon.

How do you assess last season overall? Were you happy with it? Was there anything you were disappointed with?

Last season was my first season competing in international races so it was pretty scary but I also learned so much. I am happy because at each competition I had the impression that I was getting better and stronger but also because I reached one of my main goals that was to qualify for a pursuit race. I am not disappointed with anything because I know that with every mistake I made I also learned something.

How do you manage going to school with training and competing in biathlon?

It is hard to do both school and sport especially in winter because I am away so often on competitions but I am lucky to got to a “sporting school” were most of the students are like me so the teachers are very helpful, and then when I am away I have to try and work even if all I want to do is ski and sleep.

It’s not easy being a British biathlete. How are you funded and do you get support from the BBU or train with any of the British team?

I do receive financial support from the BBU who with the aid from their IBU funding cover the majority of my travel and accommodation costs during the race season. I still need to fund my equipment which I do with the aid of my parents and I am always looking for external help like crowdfunding or grants just like the ‘Vincent Budge Award’ from the British Skiers Trust that I am very proud to have just received.
Training wise I train with my local team and I will join the British team for an on snow training camp in the autumn, apart from that I do not do any training with them as I need to stay at school this season.

What is it like training where Martin and Simon Fourcade started? Have you ever met them?

It is really inspiring coming from where Martin and Simon started because I tell myself that they have become some of the best biathletes in the world so why could I not maybe some day? I have already met both of them and they’re really nice, I actually trained just next to Martin the other week when he came back home.

What are your plans for summer training?

For this summer I am training mostly at Font-Romeu and I have 3 training camps with my local team that I am looking forward to.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are my motivation and determination and my weaknesses are being impatient and skiing up hills.

What are your goals for this season?

My main goal for the upcoming season is to represent Team GB at the Lausanne Youth Olympic games. I also want to qualify myself to as many pursuits as possible!

If you have any time after school and training what do you like to do in your free time?

I love cooking, especially cakes and cookies (they taste so good after a hard training!) and I also like reading.

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

Yes, my favorite track is at Sjusjøen in Norway because that is where I shot my first 10/10 in competition and qualified to my first pursuit race, and because Norway is so pretty!

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

My favorite biathlete would either be Tiril Eckhoff or Ingrid Tandrevold because they are both inspiring women and they make biathlon look fun.

Does your rifle have a name?

No it doesn’t but I think if it did it would be something like Gwendolyn or Bernadette!

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined / organized / impatient .

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): the one with unicorns
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Finland
Favourite shooting range: Sjusjøen
Lucky bib number: I don’t have one.
Funniest biathlete on the Junior Cup/Nicest biathlete on the Junior Cup: I don’t really know anyone because I’m shy, come and say hi next season if you’re reading this!
Best thing about being a biathlete: Travelling to awesome places and missing school for it!

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Steve Arnold: The Interview!

Steve Arnold is a British para biathlete and cross country skier. He was serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both of his legs above the knee. He initially started in sport as a hand cyclist but saw the error of his ways when he was introduced to Nordic skiing in 2017. He has also competed at the Invictus Games and was Vice Captain for the British team at the last edition in Toronto in 2017.

Follow Steve on Twitter: @stevearnold79
Check out his website: stevearnoldsport.com
He is on Instagram too: Instagram.com/stevearnold79

Why did you become a biathlete?

After finishing with GB Para Cycling in Dec 2016, I wanted a new challenge and Nordic/biathlon was a sport I’d never done before. I knew it was hard physically and technically but I wanted to see that for myself and see if I could push myself to the standard required to race for GB.

How hard was the transition from cycling to biathlon and cross country? Are there any similarities or are they very different?

Obviously the climate change was a little bit of a shock to the system going from a summer sport to a winter one but the most difficult bit has been learning the technique of moving the ski around on the snow. It’s also different muscle groups from the cycling so going from a lot of chest and arm work to back/lats and triceps has been an interesting challenge in the gym. (I’m not a lover of gym work!)

How do you assess your progress so far in para nordic? Are you happy with how it’s going? Have you identified areas which you need to work on?

After just one season I can’t really complain about my progress, I know there’s still plenty to learn on the technical side and I do need a bit more explosive power for the sprint races but with just being in the sport for a little over 16 months its been a good start with exciting times ahead.

You missed out on the Paralympics in South Korea. Does that motivate you more to make it to Beijing or will you just go season by season?

Not going to South Korea did hurt but its definitely made me start this four year cycle well. I’ve looked at how I can improve as an all round athlete and be at the top of my game in four years time. I also think you need to look at it season by season though, set yourself realistic goals, don’t be afraid to try new things in the first couple of seasons and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just looking at four years away for me would be mentally draining and I think it would take the enjoyment out of it.

What are your goals for this season?

Consistently be in the Top 15 in all Cross country/Biathlon races.
Know which distances I’m going to prioritise for 2019/20 by the end of this season.
Handle the ski better.
Improve in the sprint races.(explosive power)

What are you doing for summer training?

I’m currently working with GB Para Canoe to make me stronger and have better core stability, but along side that I’m back on the bike and Mountain board (roller skis) getting the miles in. Also plenty of time in the gym, soon the team will be out in Oberhof in the snow tunnel so looking forward to being back on snow.

You were in the Army. Does the shooting you learned there help you with biathlon or not?

Not really. Although the Marksmanship principles are the same it’s very different shooting an air rifle to a 5.56mm rifle. For one there is no kick back on the air rifle, you are only shooting 10 metres and the target is tiny. Put that all together with it being a race I’d say put me back on the front line anytime.

British Olympic and Paralympic snow sports are merging. Do you think that is a good thing for the para nordic team?

I think this is a great thing to happen to our sport and team to be training with the best British winter athletes in this country with great facilities and knowledge can only be a good thing.

You were Vice Captain of the British team last year at the Invictus Games. You must have been really proud of that. What was that experience like? Will you compete this year?

Being VC last year was incredible and I’m still very proud and honoured to be able to have been a small part of helping people change there lives for the better. It was amazing to see first hand how powerful sport can be in helping people. I wont be competing this year but I am the athlete representative on the UK Delegation Board so it’s been great to still be part of the Invictus Games in a small way.

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

I would have to say so far it would be Canmore in Canada. It’s just set in a great place and the town is incredible.

Does your rifle have a name?

No

Describe yourself in three words.

Honest,funny,fearless

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): CANADA
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): GB
Favourite shooting range: OBERHOF
Lucky bib number: 24
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: TRYVGE LARSEN (NOR)
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: COLLIN CAMERON (CAN)
Best thing about being a biathlete: You’ll never know how hard it is until you try it.

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Holly Rees-Lay: The Interview!

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

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

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any hobbies away from biathlon?

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

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

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

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

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

Does your rifle have a name?

Yes, it’s called Freddie.

Describe yourself in three words.

Determined, Stubborn, Caffeinated

Quick fire Questions:

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

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Marcel Laponder: The Interview!

laponder

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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