Tag Archives: Marcel Laponder

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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Funding Biathlon: Not so Great, Britain!

British-Olympic-Association

Biathlon is not exactly Britain’s most popular sport. Actually if you asked the average Briton they probably couldn’t tell you what it is. However this does mean that it doesn’t have any biathletes, it just means that they don’t give them any help. The best known of these are Lee Jackson, Kevin Kane and Amanda Lightfoot. They are not the only ones though. Amongst the ranks of the British Biathlon Union, the national governing body for biathlon in the U.K, are Scott Dixon, Marcel Laponder, Adele Walker and Nerys Jones to name but a few.

The BBU is funded by sponsors, the IBU, the Army Winter Sports Association and by the athletes themselves. It is run on voluntary basis and the paid staff consists of a Secretary General and a wax technician. They have no performance director or any support staff who are paid. There is no support for biathlon from any of Britain’s main sports bodies or any National Lottery funding.

Why is this? Well for all the talk of a lasting legacy in sport after the London Olympics this only seems to apply to sports that have “podium potential”. So basically if you get a medal you can have some more money. As far as I am concerned this is completely the wrong way round and leaves a lot of Winter Sports stuck in a vicious circle. If you have won a medal it seems to me that you are doing pretty well as it is with the funding you have.

Surely it would be better to give sports like biathlon more money to give them a chance to catch up with the likes of curling and skeleton. How are you supposed to improve if you are not funded? All you end up with is a couple of sports who might provide a medal and a lot that end up struggling. You would think that money could be given to sports like biathlon to give them a chance to see what they could do even on a trial basis or on a sliding scale depending on each year’s results on the IBU Cup and World Cup instead of basing everything on Olympic performances.

Another thing that could be improved is the amount of races that the British Biathletes, and those from other countries with the same issues, have to compete in. On the IBU World Cup you have to finish in the Top 60 to qualify to compete in the Pursuit race, and you must be ranked in the Top 30 to take part in the Mass Start. So if you have a World Cup round where there is a Sprint, Pursuit and Mass Start if you don’t make it into the Top 60 and you are not ranked in the Top 30 overall you could find yourself travelling to places like Khanty- Mansiysk or Kontiolahti to take part in one race. This can be expensive if you are not well funded and is hardly going to give you valuable experience on the World Cup especially if you are a young athlete.

Maybe they could think about introducing a B race for the Pursuit where the Top 5 or 10 finishers are guaranteed to take part in the next Pursuit A race to give them an incentive to race for. Or maybe they could re-introduce the Team race for the lower ranked countries and reward them with some funding rather than points. I imagine these suggestions might be difficult to put on the schedule and cause logistical difficulties but I am sure the fans wouldn’t complain as you would get more races to see each day.

As it stands at the moment the BBU and the athletes themselves have done a remarkable job to have achieved what they have done so far. However the lack of funding, assistance and interest in biathlon from the Sports funding bodies especially after a successful summer Olympic campaign means that you are not so Great, Britain!

For more information on British Biathlon:
http://www.britishbiathlon.com/
For information on the biathletes:
http://britishbiathlon.blogspot.co.uk/
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Update as of January 2014: Good news on the funding. The BBU has a new sponsor, Aspen Healthcare Solutions, for the next 4 years securing funds until the Winter Olympics in 2018!