Tag Archives: Dutch biathlon

Herbert Cool: The Interview!

Herbert Cool is a former Dutch biathlete who was born in Rotterdam on the 9th of February 1985. He retired from biathlon in 2012, which was far too soon!, with a top finish of 50th in both the Sprint and Pursuit races at the 2008 World Championships in Oestersund. After retiring he began commentating on biathlon for Dutch Eurosport.

Follow Herbert on Twitter: @CoolHerbert

Why did you become a biathlete?

My father loves to go cross country skiing. As we have no snow in the Netherlands we used to spend our vacations in Germany and the Czech Republic. I got into the sport as well, enjoyed it, enjoyed racing against the local youth and sometimes even beating them. Age 18 I participated in the Youth Olympic Games in Bled, Slovenia. I came 9th in the Sprint which was great. We hardly ever trained on snow, only roller skiing and some shooting in a shooting range without a roller ski loop. This made me realize I had a talent for the sport and made me decide to pursue a professional career in biathlon. At age 19 I moved to the US to train with the US Junior team in Minnesota. A year after, I moved to Ruhpolding and stayed there for 6 years.

What are your best memories from your biathlon career?

For sure the first year in the US was the most fun. Obviously it is a great experience to live there on the whole, especially after finishing school. I got to see a lot of the country and was surprised about the large Nordic community it has, not to mention the beautiful cross country tracks. Also, the team was great. Just a bunch of young people wanting to make it in a sport that wasn’t normal in the country they came from. I guess we shared this experience, even though our countries were so far apart. We shared the troubles with funding, we shared having to travel away from your own country to be able to do what you love. And we had a great coach, Vladimir Cervenka, who is still coaching the US Juniors in Minnesota. Of course there were many great memories after that year, but things became a bit more serious, more like a job.

How did you become a commentator for Eurosport and how long have you been doing it?

Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics. The Dutch Olympic Association wants biathletes to be top 8 in the world, which obviously is a requirement similar to countries like Germany or Norway. However, there is hardly any funding and no talent development whatsoever. I really hope this will change and I am putting energy into this myself, but for now it is unrealistic to expect any talent from the Netherlands (nor is it realistic to expect youth to become interested in the sport, there simply are no facilities). Eurosport gave me a call; whether I would be interested in joining their biathlon commentator during the Olympics. I did, and it was a lot of fun. After I decided to quit in 2012 I pretty much became their new biathlon commentator. I still enjoy it a lot, and nowadays do some other sports as well as some presenting in front of the camera. For example during the 2018 Olympics. It’s a lot of fun and it enables me to stay on top of the sport that I love.

Did you find the transition from biathlete to commentator difficult? Was it harder or easier than you thought? Do you ever run out of things to say? 😉

I think it was the fact that I could become the biathlon commentator at Eurosport that helped me in the transition. You have to understand, I am a city boy. I was born and raised in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time. So living in Ruhpolding was about as far away from living in the city as possible. Although I often miss the beautiful nature in the Alps (and the snow, obviously) I also really wanted to go back to Rotterdam. And I’m not just a commentator, I also own a sports management agency. We are into sports marketing, event management and athlete management. For example, this year we will bring a large group of Dutch biathlon fans to the World Team Challenge in Gelsenkirchen for the first year. You’d be surprised how many Dutch people love watching biathlon. When it comes to winter sports, speed skating is obviously the number 1 by far, but I would say biathlon is the second most popular winter sport on television here!
(Definitely not running out of things to say 😉 )

How much and what kind of research do you do before the races?

Honestly, I hardly do any research. I simply love the sport so much that I read and see everything no matter what. Before a race, I obviously do my preparation work, but that doesn’t take a lot of time this way.

Do you have some favourite/memorable races or moments that you have commentated on? Why were they special?

My relationship with the US team runs like a red line through my career. First I moved to Minnesota to train with the US Juniors. After that I moved to Ruhpolding where I was fortunate enough to have Ricco Gross coach me and help me a lot. He helped me connect to the US World Cup team -they waxed his ski’s during that time- and I ended up going with them in some of their training camps as well as travelling with them throughout the winter. A great setup for which I am still very grateful to both Ricco Gross, Bernd Eisenbichler, their high performance director and the team as a whole. It was during the time Tim Burke did very well, he even led the World Cup total score during Christmas, and I roomed up with them and learned a lot. So to answer the question, during the Hochfilzen World Champs there was the epic individual race men’s race. Moravec was in the lead, Lowell Bailey started really late. He shot well, and the finish loop was so intense. I think I screamed during my commentary and for sure I wasn’t very objective, but I didn’t care. It was such a great win for Lowell and I felt a lot of joy, especially seeing all of the wax techs and coaches celebrating afterwards. You know how hard they all work for it and how much effort goes in behind the scenes.

Is biathlon popular in The Netherlands? Can you tell us something about the current biathletes from the Netherlands.

It’s a difficult subject at the moment. The Dutch ski federation has chosen not to invest in talent development. One of the reasons is that the Dutch Olympic Association will only send a biathlete to the Olympics if he or she is around top 8 in the world. This is almost impossible to achieve in general, but especially with no funding, no facilities (no snow) and, very important, no athletes who are already on a World Cup level. You need to train with athletes who are at least as good as you on a daily basis. A good example is Chardine Sloof; she is a talented biathlete who got introduced to the sport because she lives in Sweden. She became a Junior World Champion for the Netherlands, which is crazy. Luck hardly has any influence on the sport of biathlon, if you become Junior World Champion you are talented. Period. After that she struggled with some physical issues and the funding stopped. She decided to switch to the Swedish team. A good decision, because she is surrounded by great athletes, the right culture and great facilities as well. She achieved 3 top 15 results during the Oberhof World Cup 2 seasons ago, really great stuff. I hope we will see more of her in the upcoming season.

Do you have any predictions for the up coming season? Anyone we should be looking out for to do well?

As always after an Olympic season we saw some big names quit. Of course we will miss Domracheva for example. She has one of the best techniques on the women’s side and is of great added value to the exposure of biathlon due to her personality. On a personal note I will miss Bjoerndalen, because he was my idol when I was a biathlete myself. I think Johannes Thingnes Boe will again be a little bit better and more solid this time, although he did admit to not training as much as he should have done in spring. But it will be interesting to see whether Fourcade can take another overall World Cup. I think it’s Boe’s time now. And the Swedes will be strong. They have the momentum after their successful Olympics. Of course there is a big difference between having nothing to lose and being one of the favourites, so this will be a role they will have to get used to. On the women’s side I think Dahlmeier will be very strong, if she stays healthy on her way to December. But I’m afraid that if she wins a lot, she will quit after this winter, which would be a big loss to the sport. I would also keep an eye on Lisa Vittozzi, she made big steps last season and is still very young.

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

I loved Östersund. Great atmosphere downtown, great energy on the whole and tracks that suited me. Long uphills that you really had to dig into. Antholz is everybody’s favorite, not only because of the great food and kind people. I always joke during my commentary that they somehow always seem to have a lot of snow, yet the sun is always shining!

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

Bjoerndalen, because he made biathlon into the sport it is today. He pulled it out of cross country skiing’s shadow. His technique was perfection. Someone who also has great balance and style on ski’s is Simon Fourcade, I love watching him ski. When it comes to fighting spirit you have to mention Kaisa Makarainen. Such a great athlete, a fierce competitor on the tracks and a great person once she crosses the finish line.

Did your rifle have a name?

Nope.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ambitious, passionate, calm.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Right now: Belgium!
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Shipulin’s carved rifle looks great.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Not sure which year, and a bit of a different sport, but I loved the suit the Norwegian cross country team had in the last seasons Bjorn Daehlie was racing.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Being active in a worldwide sport that is still small enough to be a small community, and the closeness to nature.
Best thing about being a commentator: Sharing what you love with viewers who really discover your sport -and how great it is. Because biathlon wasn’t really known in the Netherlands, viewers can ask me question through Twitter during the race. This works out great and gives me the chance to bring the sport closer to the Dutch audience.

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Carine Leijn: The Interview!

Carine Leijn is a Dutch biathlete who was born on the 11th of March 1999. She raced on the Junior World Cup last season achieving a best result of 46th in the Individual in Lenzerheide. She also raced in the Junior Open European Championships in Nove Mesto as well as the Youth World Championships in Brezno-Orsblie. Her big sister Lilian also used to be a biathlete until she recently gave up the sport leaving Carine as the only female Dutch biathlete.

Follow her on Twitter: @CarineLeijn
on Instagram.com/carine.leijn
and Facebook: Biatleijn
Website: http://www.leijn.eu/

Why did you become a biathlete?

Besides the fact that biathlon is just plain awesome, I have two older sisters who used to do biathlon. So you could say it runs in the family. So when my parents were around 30 years old they started cross country skiing. And we grew up going to Sweden every winter to do cross country skiing in the snow. We also practised on these plastic ski mats in Gouda (yes yes Gouda from the cheese). It’s hard to imagine what it looks like and even harder to describe its appearance, so I’ll leave it at that. Eventually the Dutch ski federation asked my oldest sister if she was interested in doing biathlon. Since then our family was in love.

How do you assess last season? You raced in the Junior World Cup and at the Youth World Championships. What were they like?

Last season started out pretty good in Lenzerheide and Hochfilzen. I had overall good races and felt good on the skis. Last season was supposed to be promising. With sneak peeks of my good races I was excited to see what more I could do at the Junior cups and The Youth World Championships. Sadly my nightmare came true after the Christmas break, at the first day of the IBU-IOC training camp in Slovenia I got sick. Not the “I don’t feel so good but I will train anyway even if coach said not to cold” but the real deal 39 degrees, hot and cold am I dead yet fever! So I had to take a lot rest and a lot of Slovenian honey to get back on my feet. So the races in Pokljuka and in NMNM were kind of doomed before I even started because they were directly after this camp. Then I got home for a few weeks to prep for the Youth World Champs. I was feeling a bit more in shape but not as good as I was before. In Slovakia the conditions weren’t the best, a lot of rain, wind and soft snow. Swimming was almost faster than skiing on the tracks. No but in all seriousness taking into account the short period of time Osrblie had to organize everything they did a really good job. At all the venues the people were so nice and kind. It was a great experience to be able to compete at the Junior cup with so many countries. I learned so much which I am really grateful for.

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

My favourite race was in Hochfilzen, before I got sick. There were a few factors which made it really special for me. I really liked the tracks, the up and downhills, tricky curves and the high speed. So I was testing my skis and all of a sudden I heard Dutch people and realized they were talking to me. They told me they just moved to Hochfilzen and asked me if I was going to compete in the Junior cup. They told me they were going to try to come and watch the race. The next day they actually showed up, wished me good luck and cheered for me from the tribunes. So in that Sprint I shot clean, had the best skis and gave everything I had. So this was really my favourite race from last season.

You can also race in the Single Mixed Relay with Jarl Hengstmengel. Do you like that event?

The Single Mixed Relay was really something on its own. I never did a competition like this before but I really liked the fact that you’re a team against all the other countries. Also the girls start in a mass start which I’d never done before, so that was really awesome. This Single Mixed Relay was when I was had just started training a few days after my fever. So I was dying during the whole race. It was good that we had a little rest in between when the boys were racing. But Jarl and I agreed beforehand that no matter what happened we weren’t going to do the penalty loop and we were going to beat the Belgian team. We succeeded at both so we were quite happy with our race.

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

No it sure isn’t. The hardest of thing of all is that I always have to train alone. Given that I am the only girl at this point, there isn’t a training group it’s just me. I used to have my sister as a training partner but when she quit I really had to do it on my own. One of the good things about being a Dutch biathlete is I think the IBU-IOC camps. Because The Netherlands isn’t a major country in biathlon we get invited, along side other small countries, to these camps. My motivation really gets a boost from these camps. You meet a lot of new people and go to places that are really awesome. But for me most important thing is the fact that you train in a group which is really important because no matter how hard you work you can’t always do it on your own.

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

At this point I’m still in high school. I split the year before my senior year in 2 years. So I had more time to train, this was in the last school year. But next year I’ll be a senior and hopefully will be graduating high school. My high school is really cooperative with my sport. They help me with my school planning and I get a lot of guidance. As for my social life, my friends support me all the way and help me stay motivated for school and for training. They help me study when I miss a lot of school due to races or a training camp.I really love having my friends around and I don’t have the idea that biathlon is in the way of that.

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

Not particularly. I’ve never been a person who likes to go out or something like that. So I don’t miss it and it’s not something I would want to do. Because I really grew up in the sport I am used to making certain sacrifices.

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

My big goal for next season is to qualify again for the Youth World Championships. And to not get sick during the season. And for further in to the future it isn’t that easy to say. I think we all dream really big, which is a good thing. But we have to have goals in between to keep our feet on the ground. For now I hope I will make a lot of progress in the Junior cup over the next years and who knows what we can achieve with hard work, passion and big dreams.

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

I think one of my strengths is that I am mentally able to push myself to the very end, during training or a competition. My weakness is my speed on the shooting range, and my shooting time which I am currently working on. The less time you spend on the shooting range the better.

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

Pokljuka for sure, the track in the winter is really fast with quick turns which is really fun. Also I’ve been there so many times that every time I get there it feels like coming home which feels really special to me.

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

Darya Domracheva. Since I was little she has been my favourite. I always watched the races, looked at her skiing with her perfect technique and wanting to be like her. So I was really excited last season when she was making a comeback in Oberhof. I can’t wait to find out what she’ll do next season.

Does your rifle have a name?

I don’t think I got the note stating this was a thing… It is a thing! A biathlon23 thing! 😉

Describe yourself in three words.

chaotic – resilient – hard worker

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Finland
Favourite shooting range: Hochfilzen
Lucky bib number: 17
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Michael Rösch
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU/Junior Cup: Tarjei Bø
Best thing about being a biathlete: The food in all the different countries.

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Jarl Hengstmengel: The Interview!

jarl

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

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

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

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

How do you balance training and competing with your education and social life? Are there things you would like to do but can’t because of training?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worst thing? Which worse things!?

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

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

Do you have any hobbies outside of sport?

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

Does your rifle have a name?

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

Describe yourself in three words.

Calm, concentrated, motivated.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Pokljuka

Favourite biathlete (past or present): Martin Fourcade

Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Individual

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

Favourite food: Pancakes

Favourite singer/band:
Armin van Buuren

Favourite film: The Italian Job

Favourite sports team:
Team Out There

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

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Dutch courage!*

chardine

It’s flat. It doesn’t have a lot of snow. It’s more famous for windmills, tulips and clogs and a liberal attitude to just about everything. The Netherlands is not a place you would readily associate with biathlon. You would however be wrong! Not only do they have biathletes, they have a whole family of them!

All born in Waddinxveen the Sloof family comprising of brothers Joël and Luciën and sister Chardine are taking the biathlon siblings thing to a whole new level! Especially as their coach just happens to be their dad, Eddy! Despite being the youngest, the most successful and probably best known of the three is Chardine. She burst onto the scene in 2012 at the Junior World Championships in Kontiolahti winning two gold medals in the Individual and the Pursuit. In doing so she made history by becoming the first Dutch athlete to win a World Championship.

JoelSloof

Moving to Sweden in 1999 obviously helped all of the Sloofs in biathlon as The Netherlands neither has the weather conditions or facilities to support professional biathletes. Torsby is the location the family chose and it has paid off as all three children have done well in biathlon. The eldest brother Joël born on the 15th of November 1988 has had most experience on the IBU and World Cup. He has had some good results in the past year finishing from around 50th to 95th on the World Cup and a 51st place in the World Championship Individual in Nove Mesto was a great achievement. Luciën born on the 7th of June 1990 is obviously slightly less experienced but has produced some good Top 50 results in the Junior World Championships and also in the European Championships.

luciensloof

However the Sloof family don’t have the monopoly on Dutch biathlon. The recently retired and brilliantly named Herbert Cool had a good career and there is another up and coming biathlete Jarl Hengstmengel, who placed a credible 48th and 68th in the Individual and Sprint respectively in the Junior World Championships in Obertilliach this year. He trains in Germany and has set a goal of becoming one of the Top 50 in the World. As an 18 year old he has great ambition and also the time to try and achieve it. He is aiming high and there is nothing wrong with that unless you are on the shooting range of course!

jarl

So there you have it, The Netherlands has quite a few good young biathletes coming through. It just shows you that you don’t need hills or snow to be good at winter sports. A little help is required of course in these cases from Sweden and Germany but a bit of Dutch courage can take you a long way.

Good luck to all of them!

You can follow all The Sloofs and Jarl on Twitter and Chardine, Luciën and Jarl on Facebook. I strongly recommend you do so – they need your support!

You can find out more info at: http://www.sloofbiathlon.com
(It’s in Dutch but you can translate it easily with an online translator.)

*just so we’re clear I mean Dutch courage as in brave people who are Dutch. I am not advocating drinking alcohol for courage(as the saying means in English) before doing biathlon!Although……


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