Tag Archives: Magdalena Neuner

Anna Gandler: The Interview!

Photo courtesy of Anna Gandler.


Anna Gandler is an Austrian biathlete. She was born in Hall in the Tyrol region on the 5th of January 2001. Last season she won the individual race at the IBU Junior Open European Championships in Hochfilzen. At the Youth World Championships in Lenzerheide she took the gold medal in the pursuit, after finishing 4th in the sprint, and also claimed the bronze medal in the individual. She finished in 15th place overall in the total score on the IBU Junior Cup.

Follow Anna on Instagram: anna_gandler
Like her Facebook page: Anna Gandler

Why did you become a biathlete?

First, I started with cross-country skiing, because my dad (Markus Gandler) was a very successful cross-country skier and he showed me the sport. The training was always a lot of fun. We always trained in Seefeld and there is a shooting range too. I think like every child, I was fascinated by the rifle, which was something special. A teammate of my dad, who has a cross-country school in Seefeld, gave me the opportunity to try shooting, although I was very young. Since then, I am a biathlete.

How do you assess last season overall? What was good and what was bad?

I have to say that overall, I am very satisfied with this season. The good things were the gold and bronze medals in the Youth World Championships and the gold medal in the Junior European Championships. The bad thing was the start of the season. I had problems with my muscles and could not find my performance.

What was your best or favourite race from last season and why?

My favourite race of last season was the pursuit of the World Championships in Lenzerheide. It was always a big dream, after the silver medal 2017 in Osrblie, to win a gold medal once. In addition, my family was there and it was such a great atmosphere.

What are your plans for summer training? Has the corona virus affected the plans or the way you train?

Corona only affected my training in the first weeks after the season. In Tirol, where I live, the rules were very strict. I trained a lot at home and I had luck because I have a dog, so I was allowed to go out sometimes too. Right now, everything is going according to plan.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I think my strength is the shooting, because I can be really focused, especially in prone. My weaknesses are the pressure I put on myself before competitions and my nervousness.

What are your goals for this season?

The next season is my first junior year. So my goals for next season are:
– to win a medal (World Champion and European Championships) in the junior class. I think it is possible, if I stay healthy, because I also won the gold medal in the Junior European Championships in Hochfilzen this year.
– to start and make good results in the IBU Cup competitions again.

Who is your roommate on tour and do they have any bad habits (eg.snoring) or good habits (eg.tidy)?

Haha… my roommates change all the time, but usually I am with Lisa Osl, Kristina Oberthaler and Lea Rothschopf. No, they haven’t any bad habits… maybe I am the one who is snoring sometimes ;).

You are having a dinner party with 3 other biathletes. Who would you invite and why? What’s on the menu?

I think I would invite Dorothea Wierer, Johannes Boe and Dominik Landertinger, because I want to know more about their training and experiences and in addition, they make a nice and funny impression (Landi I also know a little bit). On the menu would be sushi or tacos. Maybe sushi as an appetizer and for main course tacos haha. I really like that :).

What are your hobbies away from biathlon?

I play violin and I really like to do something with my animals at home. I also like cooking and trying out new recipes.

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

I really like the tracks which are in the woods like Pokljuka, Obertilliach or Oberhof, but honestly I don’t have a favourite one.

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

Oh I have many: When I was a kid I always said Magdalena Neuner and Christoph Sumann, because they achieved so much in their career. Now I am also a big fan of
– Dorothea Wierer, because she is so cool, her fast shooting is amazing and she is also interested in other things than sport, for example fashion.
– Laura Dahlmeier, it is amazing how many medals she won in such a short time and of course
– Dominik Landertinger. He has so often picked himself up and never gave up, also after his operation and always showed his performance when he needed it and his final lap was the best.

Does your rifle have a name?

No, but I just think about that.

Describe yourself in three words.

independent, tidy, ambitious

Quick fire choices:
Choose one:
skiing or shooting? I can’t decide, can I say both? 🙂
prone or standing? prone
against the clock or head to head racing? head to head racing
uphill or downhill? uphill (I am a bad downhiller)
mixed relay or women’s relay? both 🙂
morning or night? night
sun or snow? in winter snow and in summer sun 😉
roller skiing or cycling? roller skiing
alcohol or chocolate? definitely chocholate

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Regina Oja: The Interview!

Regina Oja is an Estonian biathlete. She was born in Tallinn on the 31st of January 1996. She made her biathlon debut in 2013 and raced on the World Cup for the first time in 2016. Last season she spent most of her time competing on the World Cup and raced at the Open European Championships in Ridnaun where she finished 4th in the Single Mixed Relay. She can also be found racing the first leg for the Estonian Women’s Relay team.

Like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/reginabiathlon/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I started with many activities such as dancing, gymnastics and swimming and afterwards skiing. For a long time I did swimming and skiing at the same time but in the end it was skiing I chose, I had really good friends and training partners and that’s what became decisive. When I got older my father took me to shoot and showed me how everything works. It was really interesting for me and it didn’t take long until I raced my first biathlon race. It was during summer and in running. The first day I shot really well and got 1st place. The second day in one range I shot 5 penalties but ran 4 penalty laps, so I got +2mins and ended up somewhere at the back of the list. However it was really interesting for me, I started to wonder if I could get my own rifle so my father said, that if I wanted my own rifle I had to start doing biathlon more often. So that’s when I started to race in biathlon races more often than cross-country and so it went. 🙂

Last season was your first major season on the World Cup. How do you assess your season?

I consider it okay. It wasn’t anything super good but I didn’t have high hopes either. I wished to race all season long and that’s what I accomplished. Of course I wanted to race well in every race, the beginning was hard and many new races and disciplines, but after New Year I think it started to look better for me. I learned a lot and started to feel better again. It was a long season and definitely different than my other seasons have been, to begin and start the season on the World Cup was new for me but something I really wanted and worked for.

You were 4th in the Single Mixed Relay at the ECH in Ridnaun with Rene Zakhna. Were you happy with that race or disappointed to just miss a medal?

Yes, we were happy. I didn’t think so much about missing out on a medal because it was either way a surprise race for us. Of course we wanted to do well but I had already raced the whole of January and also 3 races in Ridnaun ( Individual, sprint and pursuit) before the Single Mixed so I really started to feel tired. I wanted to keep calm and not think about results. It was a good race and I’m happy we managed to achieve 4th place, of course a medal would have been something completely different but that would have meant better shooting and skiing from both of us. 🙂

In Kontiolahti you raced in the Single Mixed Relay and the Mixed Relay on the same day. How difficult is that physically and mentally?

At first I didn’t think it would be a big deal, I knew what I said “yes” to and I was prepared. The hardest part was lack of time between the two races and also in the warm up before the second race, my body was already relaxed and recovering from the first race and it was hard to do zeroing and warm up again in such a short time. It was just something I haven’t done before. It wasn’t that bad and I had time to prepare myself for that situation. I knew I had 2 races before the races and when I arrived at the stadium that’s what I went to do. It was just to keep a positive and open mind about the situation and everything. My team helped a lot and were very supportive.

What are your plans for summer training?

To raise the training hours and a little bit of a different training method than before. I have done a lot more running than earlier years and I will start roller skiing more from September. I have had a tendency for some things to come up in autumn so this is what we’re now trying to anticipate and start with some training a little bit later than usual.

What are your goals for this season?

Of course to do better than last year. I have now seen and felt my weak spots and how things worked last year so I can be more aware now. I want to stay healthy and get in shape when it’s most needed.

It seems you like the colour pink. Any plans for a pink rifle for next season? Or maybe a pink harness? Or pink gloves? 😉

Pink is not my favourite colour, it has just happened that I have many things in pink. I don’t want a pink rifle, I think it’s too much. I have a pink harness and magazines, these details I’m okay with pink. I like colour and would rather choose something colourful instead of black. Often things are either in black, pink or something like yellow, green or blue. Then I choose pink, but not because it’s my favourite color but because it’s the prettiest of the choices I have. 🙂

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

I really liked to race in Ruhpolding and in Kontiolahti last year. I don’t know if these are my favourite, I still have many places to discover but these are what I remember the most from last season. 🙂

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

Magdalena Neuner, always has and always will be. She was so natural and pure wow. I like everything about her.

Does your rifle have a name?

Usually I say rifle when I talk about it but it’s also called Tessa. I don’t call it that way though, it’s just there.

Describe yourself in three words.

Smiling, honest and strong.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Sweden
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Shipulin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Favourite shooting range: in Solleftea, Sweden
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Lena Häcki
Best thing about being a biathlete: The Biathlon Family

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Paulína Fialková: The Interview!

Paulína Fialková is a Slovakian biathlete who won three medals at the recent Summer World Championships in Russia. She won silver in the Sprint and Mixed Relay and bronze in the Pursuit. Last season she achieved her personal best result of 5th on the World Cup in Kontiolahti and finished 31st in the Total Score. She was born on the 25th of October 1992 in Brezno and her younger sister Ivona is also a biathlete.

Like her Facebook page: Paulína Fialková
Follow her on Instagram: paja.fialkova

Why did you become a biathlete?

Because I was too hyperactive as a child and my parents chose biathlon as the right solution.

You got your personal best result of 5th last season in the Kontiolahti Pursuit coming from 37th with clean shooting. What do you remember about that race and what were your emotions at the finish line?

I had quite strong back pain before the race. I took some medicine for the pain and I knew, I will shoot 4×0 today. I was really happy after the race because of pushing my personal limit higher and especially with the clean shooting.

You went to the summer World Championships and won 3 medals. Is it good preparation and did it give you a lot of confidence for this coming season?

I had a hard summer preparation and it was important for me to know how the training was going. I did it not for confidence but for experience. I will never be old enough to gain more experience. Every time I wear my start number I can learn something new.

What other training have you done over the summer? Is there anything specific you have been trying to improve?

I changed a little bit my skiing technique and after shooting analysis also my rifle settings. I hope it will work.

What are your goals for this season on the World Cup?

To be better…I mean more points, hoping for some podiums.

You had some good results at the PyeongChang World Cup. Do you like the tracks and the range there? Have you set any goals for the Olympic Games?

I really liked PyeongChang. There are hard uphills and it satisfies me. The shooting range was windy but after the downhill.

What’s it like to be on the same team as your sister. Do you get on well or fight like all other families!? 😉

No fighting, just supporting 🙂 She does a great job as my sparring partner in the team!

Brezno-Osrblie is your home track and it hosts the IBU Cup races most years. Would you like to see a World Cup going there in the future? Is biathlon popular in Slovakia like it is next door in the Czech Republic?

I hope for the World Cup in Osrblie but it seems to be very far away. Biathlon in Slovakia is also becoming more and more popular.

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

Osrblie because I know every centimetre very well.

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

Maybe Magdalena Neuner. She was not thinking only about the sport, when she said stop, she really stopped her career.

Does your rifle have a name?

No.

Describe yourself in three words.

Aspiring, combative, hard working.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Italy
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Mine
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Our new one for 2017/2018.
Favourite shooting range: Ruhpolding
Lucky bib number: 44
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Matej Kazár
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Dorothea Wierer
Best thing about being a biathlete: It’s my dream job!

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Emma Lunder: The Interview!

Emma Lunder is a Canadian biathlete from North Vancouver. She was born on the 2nd of September 1991 and she made her World Cup debut in 2014. She has competed for Canada in two Junior World Championships and made her first appearance at the Senior World Championships last season in Hochfilzen. In Season 2014/15 she got a second place finish on the IBU Cup in the Sprint at her home race in Canmore and last season she achieved her personal best of 21st in Antholz on the World Cup.

Follow her on Twitter: @EmmaLunder
Take a look at her blog: http://emmalunder.blogspot.co.uk/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I followed my brother into biathlon through Sea Cadets, and once I graduated high-school I decided to give it a serious shot and see how far I could get. A huge part for biathlon for me now is the teammates I get to train with everyday, and the amazing biathlon community I’m so lucky to be a part of.

You got your best result so far last season in the Antholz Individual. What are your memories from that race and how did you feel at the end?

My result in Antholz was really special because it came as a total surprise, and it reignited my confidence and love for this sport. I was beyond happy to hit all but one target in the Individual, and at the end I felt so overwhelmed with support from our team, coaches and wax crew who knew what a big deal placing 21st was for me.

Last season was pretty big for you with a good run on the World Cup post Christmas and going to the World Championships. How do you assess the season overall?

I was quite happy with last season. I struggled a lot on the shooting range with prone, but I was really persistent with trying to fix my mistakes, and by the end of the season my shooting was on an upward trajectory. With a personal best, and my first time at World Championships last winter, it’s been really motivating for my training so far this season.

Like you said your shooting improved last season. Is that something you were specifically working on and if so what were you doing to make it better?

My standing shooting has been pretty solid for me, but it was nice last year to see even an improvement in that. I was making some really basic technical errors in my prone, so once my coaches and I figured out what I was doing, we started taking steps to get those few things under control.

You won “Testival” for the second year in a row. Can you explain what that is and why you are so good at it?

Testival is basically a week of test events that the national team does every year in the summer and fall. There are 3 uphill tests (running, double pole and skate) and then 2 shooting tests. I really love going uphills, so I usually do quite well in the fitness tests. The shooting tests are where I usually lose points, but with some more attention to a few technical shooting cues I was able to have way more consistent shooting tests this year. It helps that I got to wear the “Queen” bib to motivate me all through the testing, and I really didn’t want to let anyone else have it!

What else have you been doing for summer training?

This year our team lost all of its funding, so instead of the 3 training camps we usually do, we’ve been staying in Canmore and taking advantage of all the great opportunities we can find in the mountains. This year I’ve done a few more long run/hikes and adventure workouts with the girls, as well as just trying to keep things exciting in day-to-day training.

The Winter Olympics are coming up this season. What do you need to do to qualify to represent Canada?

We will be sending a team of 4 women to the Olympics, so I need to be in the top-4 by mid-January. We have some complicated criteria that will determine who the team is, and a lot of the benchmarks are top-30’s on the World Cup, so I’m looking to achieve a few more of those!

You are also a barista! Can you do that fancy art on top of the coffee? Some of your teammates are coffee obsessed! Is that all they talk to you about? 😉

Yes I’ve been working at Starbucks for 8 years! Sarah Beaudry and I are the two women on our team working for Starbucks, and we’re the only two on the team who don’t drink coffee on a regular basis 😉 I’m slowly working on my latte art… I leave the really fancy stuff up to Rosanna Crawford and Brendan Green who are our team’s true coffee connoisseurs.

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

My favorite race course is probably Kontiolahti. I like the ripping downhills and killer climbs.

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

Magdalena Neuner – she was the first female biathlete I started following, and meeting her in Vancouver in 2010 made me want to train harder and get onto the World Cup circuit.

Does your rifle have a name?

Nope!

Describe yourself in three words.

Entertaining, emotional, mischievous.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway – for the brown cheese!
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Aita Gasparin
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy for the last 2 years
Favourite shooting range: Antholz
Lucky bib number: 39
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Benjamin Weger
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Anais Bescond
Best thing about being a biathlete: Getting to travel the world with my amazing team.

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Mark Arendz : The Interview!

arendz1

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

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

Why did you become a biathlete?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does skiing with one pole affect your technique?

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

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

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

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

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

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

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

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

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

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

Does your rifle have a name?

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

Quick fire Questions:

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

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Spring Snapshot 2016!

spring16

Seriously – you try and take a couple of months holiday from biathlon to refresh the mind and get excited again for a new season but it won’t let you! There is no escape! Here is a snapshot of just some of the things that happened in April and May in the world of biathlon.

So obviously the biggest news story was that the Biathlon23 Awards 2015/16 broke all records to become the most read post on my blog!!! Less exciting but equally important was of course the news that Old-sorry-Ole Einar Bjoerndalen will continue competing until the Olympics in 2018 or maybe even forever! There is no stopping that man. Good news for men’s biathlon but he has managed to ruin the upcoming women’s season by impregnating former KGB operative Darya Domracheva and robbing us of her presence until probably January. How dare he! After the announcement that Kaisa Makarinen also intends to compete until 2018 (while building a house at the same time!) we won’t get to see her go head to head with Dasha for a while longer.

Dasha isn’t the only one expecting a baby though. Magdalena Neuer with her customary speed is having her second child and Poland’s Weronika Nowakowska is pregnant with twins.

Gabriela Soukalova changed her name by 1 letter, not just for fun of course, she got married to Petr Koukal making her Koukalova! Dmitry Malyshko also married in the Spring break. Congratulations all round! 🙂

With all that good news we also have some bad news too. Klaus Siebert, former German biathlete and coach of Germany, China and Belarus, died after a long battle with cancer. Two Ukrainian biathletes Artem Tyshchenko and Snizhana Tisyeyeva were involved in a serious car crash on the 2nd of May. Thankfully Tisyeyeva is out of intensive care after being treated for burns and Tyschenko was released from hospital after a head injury.

Tyshchenko was again in the news when he had his suspension for doping lifted as did Eduard Latypov as their samples were consistent with having stopped taking Meldonium before it was banned. This wasn’t the case for Romania’s Eva Tofalvi and Olga Abramova who also tested positive for the drug. All four cases are still on going.

Krystyna Guzik has a shoulder injury which needs surgery and means she will be out for 2 months.

In lighter news all the biathletes were off on their holidays and were making us all jealous with their social media pictures. Martin Fourcade went to Morocco, brother Simon went to Mauritius and Reunion. Laura Dahlmeier chose a nice relaxing holiday climbing in the Himalayas! Dominik Windisch took a little European road trip. Dorothea Wierer went to the Caribbean. Johannes Boe went to London and Klemen Bauer turned up at the World Snooker Final in Sheffield. I can’t go through everyone but I am sure they all had nice breaks!

There has also been some changes in the coaching department with the news that Siegfried Mazet was leaving the French team. It was no secret where he was going and he is now the shooting coach for Norway’s men who also announced Egil Kristiansen as their ski coach. France have replaced Mazet with Franck Badiou. Elsewhere Alfred Eder returns to the Belarusian women’s team, Valeriy Medvedtsev is the Russian Women’s new coach, Finland’s new coach is Antti Leppavuori and Juraj Sanitra takes charge of the Ukranian men’s team. Thomas Fusko is the new Slovak biathlon President and Erlend Slokvik has the job for Norway.

There have also been some retirements from the sport. Canadians Zina Kocher, Scott Perras and Audrey Vaillancourt have all decided to end their biathlon careers. They are joined by Americans Annelise Cook and Hannah Dreissigacker. Also retiring are Italy’s Christian De Lorenzi and Christian Martinelli, German Andi Birnbacher, Ivan Tcherazov of Russia, Austria’s Fritz Pinter, Marine Bolliet of France and Natayla Burdyga who is retiring for the second time!

To be fair I have probably forgotten many other things that happened but as Ross said to Rachel, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

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Hanna Öberg: The Interview!

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Hanna Öberg is a Swedish biathlete who was born on the 2nd of November 1995 and currently lives in Östersund. She recently competed in the Youth/Junior World Championships in Cheile Gradistei where she won double gold in the Junior Women’s Sprint and Pursuit. She also won a silver medal in the Junior Women’s Relay with teammates Sofia Myhr and Anna Magnusson.She has raced on the IBU Cup this season in Idre.

You can follow her on Twitter: @hannaaaoberg
You can look at her website: http://www.hanna-oberg.se/

You won double gold in Cheile Gradistei. Can you describe how it
felt to win those medals?

After the first gold in the Sprint I was so happy and for so many reasons. I knew that with a good day both on the track and on the shooting range I could be fighting for a medal but a gold felt a little bit unbelievable. After the finish I cried a lot. All the hard work I have laid down it finally paid off. And of course it was huge for me to share the podium with Anna Magnusson(bronze), we have been friends for a long time and we come from the same small city in Sweden. We are good friends but also tough competitors.

To win the second gold in the Pursuit was just crazy too. To win one gold was more than I ever could imagine so to win the second gold was just unbelievable.

What do you remember about the races? Can you describe them?

Before the Sprint I was very nervous. I had a good feeling before the race and knew I had a good chance for a great result. The skiing felt solid on the first two laps and after zero misses in the prone I came in to the standing shooting with a little bit shaky legs. Actually I wasn’t so nervous on the range but with the legs starting to shake I took some extra breaths before firing the last shot. After leaving the range I got to know that I had a lead of 17-18 seconds before Anna and Lena Häcki. I went pretty hard on the first half of the last loop hoping to get some extra power at the end. I have heard of people getting energy they didn’t know they had when they are chasing medals. But it never came to me so the second half of the last loop was really hard. I was so tired after finishing the race and I only realized later that it was as tight as 0.6 seconds.

After the sprint I was satisfied and felt that I had nothing to lose in the Pursuit. Actually I would have been happy just to finish in the top ten. My body was really tired so I knew that I had to shoot well to hang on to the podium. And all of sudden I had shot zero three times and was coming in to the range in the lead and I liked the situation. It was so easy to shoot that day and without any nervousness I cleaned the targets again. This was the first time for me to shoot zero four times in a competition. Just the right day to do it on!

How did you prepare for the World Championships? Have you done any races on the IBU Cup for example?

I raced at the IBU Cup in Idre at the beginning of the season but after that it has just been a couple of races in the Swedish cup. Before the YJWCH I hadn’t raced at all for over a month. I was just focusing on training towards the Championships.

What are you plans for the rest of the season? What are your goals for
next year?

I will race at the European Championships in Tyumen and after that maybe the last IBU Cup but nothing is set yet. Next year is my first as a senior and then I hope I will race my first World Cup.

The Swedish Women’s team have had a difficult time in the last few years. You seem to be doing a lot better now as a team. What do you think has changed?

There have been some years with not so many of the junior girls taking the step up to a good senior level. There are not so many biathletes in Sweden. But now there are a lot of young girls my age who have been pretty much on the same level and this has pushed everyone of us to get even better. Furthermore the Swedish biathlon confederation took some of us younger girls into the A-team last year and this year with Wolfgang Pichler coming back as coach we have progressed a lot.

Why did you become a biathlete and why do you like the sport?

My father did biathlon when he was young but not at such a high level. In 2005 he and a couple more people started a biathlon club in my home town and so it was natural for me to start with biathlon. Since then it has been clear to me it is biathlon I want to do. I like the sport because of its complexity. It’s not just to ski fast or shoot clean. You have to ski well, shoot well and also to shoot pretty fast. It’s so much more exciting than just cross-country skiing.

Do you combine sport with your education or are you concentrating only
on biathlon at the present?

This year I have been taking some courses at the University alongside my training and competing. Mostly because of economic reasons but also because I think it’s good to have something else to focus on sometimes.

Does your rifle have a name?

Ha ha, no it doesn’t.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ambitious, Purposeful and positive.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Östersund
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Helena Ekholm and Magdalena Neuner
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Mass Start
Favourite/best race of your career so far?: The YJWCH Sprint in Romania.
Favourite food: Some good medium cooked meat with roast potatoes and mushroom sauce.
Favourite singer/band: Music isn’t quite my thing..
Favourite film: The Nicholas Sparks based films are really good!
Favourite sports team: I don’t really know.
Favourite TV show: I must sound really boring but I don’t watch so much TV.

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Rosanna Crawford: The Interview!

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Rosanna Crawford was born on the 23rd of May 1988 in Canmore. She is currently the top ranked female biathlete from Canada after finishing 21st in the Total Score on the World Cup last season. Her sister is Olympic gold medalist in cross country skiing Chandra Crawford. This year is a special one for the Canadian team as they have a home World Cup to look forward to in February and it’s extra special for Rosanna as in it’s her home town.

You can follow Rosanna on Twitter: @RosannaCrawford
She has a Facebook Page: Rosanna Crawford

Why did you want to become a biathlete? Is it so you didn’t have to compete against your sister in cross country? 🙂

I started cross country skiing at a young age and was able to try biathlon at the age of 10, I had lots of friends who were doing it, and really enjoyed the challenge. Chandra actually started in biathlon but she was not a very good shooter, she switched over to just cross country when she was 16!

You achieved your best result of 4th last season. Is your goal to get on the podium this season and how much would you love to do it in Canmore?

Definitely my goal is to be on the podium next year, to have that happen in Canmore would be pretty special!

You went to the Blink Festival for the first time and won the Super Sprint! How pleased were you with that and does it give you a lot of confidence turning up in the home of biathlon and showing them how it’s done?!!

It was a really fun event. All the athletes are a bit more relaxed in the training season! But it was cool to go head to head with some of the best in the world. You can’t look too much into these races. We will never encounter a 9 minute flat race course, or a 40 minute uphill on the World Cup, so it’s just fun to practice some head to head shooting!

What training have you done so far and what is the plan for the rest of the break?

The training varies a lot over the summer and fall months, we train from May (on snow where we can find it) to the middle of November when the race season starts. So there is lots of roller skiing, we spend time on the roller ski treadmill and playing in the mountains. Canmore is a great place to train full time, there is so many activities we can do.

How to you cope being away from home for so long during a season? Do you get homesick and what’s it like living out of a suitcase for up to 6 months a year?

It’s hard, but I am lucky that I found my boyfriend on the National team! Brendan Green and I have been together almost 6 years now, so being able to share our triumphs and disappointments makes it a lot easier! I miss my dog Moki a lot while on the road!

Your sister started Fast and Female. Are you involved in that too and what do you think of the work that it’s doing?

I think it’s an amazing organization and I try to participate in as many events as I can!
For more information on Fast and Female here is the website: https://www.fastandfemale.com/

I saw you and Brendan went on a tour in the North West Territory to talk to kids about biathlon. Can you tell us about it and how important is it for you to be able to do those kinds of things?

We are so lucky to get to travel the world and do something we are passionate about, so it’s really important to Brendan and I to give back to the community and try and inspire the next generation to follow their dreams!

Is there any chance of seeing you and Brendan doing the Single Mixed Relay this season or is that too much pressure on the relationship?!!!

Hmm hopefully! Depends on what our World Cup team looks like and if every Single Mixed and normal Mixed Relay are on the same day!!

Your favourite number is 23 and so is mine. When are you going to get bib23?!! Do you think it might guarantee victory for us?

Haha I sure hope so!!! 🙂

Does your rifle have a name?

No😦

Describe yourself in three words.

Caring, compassionate, stubborn (according to Brendan)

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Antholz (for the sunshine) Pokljuka (race course)
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Magdalena Neuner
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): pursuit
Favourite/best race of your career so far? My 5th place in the pursuit in Hochfilzen last year! Moving from 34th – 5th was pretty incredible!
Favourite food: Pizza!
Favourite singer/band: Taylor Swift
Favourite film: Maleficent, but I try to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least once a year!
Favourite sports team: I don’t follow many team sports!
Favourite TV show: Grey’s Anatomy


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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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Raubichi: Give Youth a Chance!

doherty

For this year’s Youth/Junior World Championships all eyes will be turning to Belarus. The home of Darya Domracheva will be hosting this year’s Championships in Raubichi, a purpose built winter sports complex just 20km North East of Minsk. The Junior WC was first held in 1997 in Forni Avoltri Italy followed by the Youth WC in 2002 in Ridnaun also in Italy. You might recognise some of the former winners. If you are good enough to get a medal here you are joining some illustrious company.

Medalists from the YJWC’s include Andrea Henkel, Olga Vilhukina, Darya Domracheva, Magdalena Neuner and Dorothea Wierer. Some former male champions include Simon Fourcade, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Anton Shipulin, Lukas Hofer, Simon Eder and Jean Guillaume Beatrix to name but a few! This year’s races start with the Youth Men and Women’s Individual on the 18th of February and end on the 24th with the Men’s and Women’s Junior Relays.

The Youth section of the championships is open to athletes who are under 18. To qualify as a Junior you must be between the ages of 19 and 21 by the 31st of December which is the cut-off date for the age ranges. Each country has their own selection criteria by which they select the eligible athletes. Last year’s competition took place in Presque Isle, USA and showcased some great young talent that is coming through in biathlon.

The two biathletes who stood out in the Youth category were American Sean Doherty and Italian Lisa Vittozzi. Curiously they both achieved exactly the same results with both winning gold in the Sprint and Pursuit and silver in the Individual. Other impressive performers were Julia Schwaiger of Austria who won the Individual and Germany’s Anna Weidel who was second in the Sprint and Pursuit behind Vittozzi. France sent a strong team and reaped the rewards with two individual medals, one each for Julia Simon (bronze in the Sprint) and Estelle Mougel (bronze in the Pursuit) and team gold in the Youth Relay. Stand outs among the young men were Germany’s Marco Gross and Russia’s Dmitrii Shamaev who were 2nd and 3rd respectively in both the Sprint and Pursuit. Another young Russian, Yaroslav Kostyukov, won the Individual and Russia also won the relay ahead of Canada and Finland.

vittozzi

There were equally good performances from people just outside the medals who will be pushing to get on the podium this time around. America’s Maddie Phaneuf, Estonia’s Tuuli Tomingas and Russian pair Liliya Davletshina and Maria Ivanova will all be hoping to medal in the Women’s competition although some will be making the move to Junior level. The young Canadian guys will be looking for some individual medals to add to a very impressive Relay silver as will the young Finns who were third.

Last year’s Junior competitions were a little more evenly spread in terms of medalists. On the Womens side a Russian, Evgeniya Pavlova, won the Sprint, a Kazakh Galina Vishnevskaya won the Pursuit and Luise Kummer a German won the Individual. Austria and Canada also had success with Lisa Hauser and Sarah Beaudry. As for the junior men Russia’s Alexander Povarnitsyn won Sprint gold and Pursuit silver. The French team won gold with Fabien Claude in the Pursuit and silver and bronze in the Individual from Aristide Begue and Dany Chavoutier. Norway also turned up at this point with Tore Leren taking Individual gold and Sprint silver with Jarle Midthjell Gjoerven adding Pursuit bronze. The Junior Relays were dominated by the German Team who won both the men’s and women’s races.

Some of these biathletes will be competing again in Raubichi and some are now too old and will be hoping to move to the IBU Cup and hopefully the World Cup for their respective countries. One thing is for sure there is a lot of good young talent in biathlon at the moment and there will surely be new names that come to the fore in Raubichi especially in the Youth Category.

What is important to remember though is that it’s not all about medals and success. For the majority of the biathletes that take part it is great experience for them and hopefully a stepping stone to greater things. You don’t have to win at this level to be a great biathlete just ask Martin Fourcade. For many of the youngsters taking part it is not only a challenge to be selected but just to be able to get to the venue. Many are partly funded or not funded at all and have to raise their own money just to pay for flights, accomodation and food. They all deserve your support and so keep an eye out for all the results not just the TOP 3. So if you don’t normally pay much attention to the Youth and Junior biathletes now is your chance. You never know you could be watching future World and Olympic champions in the making. What are you waiting for – Give Youth a Chance!

I have to say a huge thank you and good luck to Maddie Phaneuf, Robert Sircus, Martin Femsteinivik, Brian Halligan and Mateusz Janik who were all kind enough to do interviews for me in the build up to these Championships! I know you will all do your best and I will be behind you all the way! Tom Lahaye-Goffart and Jarl Hengstmengel won’t make it but better luck for next time!

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