Tag Archives: Mark Arendz

Derek Zaplotinsky: The Interview!

Derek Zaplotinsky is a Canadian para biathlete and cross country skier. He races in the sitting category and recently competed at his first Paralympic Games in PyeongChang. He lives in the awesomely named Smoky Lake, Alberta (which is the second best name for a lake!). He was paralysed in a motocross accident in 2006 when another bike landed on him. He initially tried hand cycling but made the smart decision to change to biathlon.

You can follow Derek on Twitter: @Derek_zap
Or Instagram: Derek_zap

Why did you become a biathlete?

Growing up in a small rural town in Alberta, shooting was something we enjoyed as kids. First with the pellet guns and then big game hunting. In all honesty I started cross country skiing because I wanted to do biathlon. I thought biathlon would be a fairly easy sport to compete in, with my experience with guns, but was I mistaken. I learned quickly it’s a lot harder than it looks. Biathlon is a sport that motivates me, I want the accuracy and speed while dealing with the heart rate and breathing.

PyeongChang was your first Paralympic Games. How did you find the experience overall?

The experience was overwhelming, but enjoyable. You train and prepare for years, but nothing can describe the feeling being there. You are competing against the best athletes in the world and the intensity level is high. I was proud to be representing my country and hopefully I’ll have the chance to experience this again in 2022.

Were you happy with your performances in Korea?

In all honesty, I was bummed with my performance. I went into the Games feeling good with my skiing and shooting. In the Biathlon sprint and 15 km cross country I was pleased with the 9th place results and was looking forward to putting it all together for the rest of the races. When it came to the middle distance biathlon I felt my skiing was good but my shooting was not consistent. Prior to the sprint cross country race I came down with a sinus infection, which definitely ended up hurting my performance for the rest of the Games.

Are you looking forward to the World Championships in Prince George? What are your goals for that event?

Yes, I did the Canadian Winter Games there 4 years ago and had some great results so I’m hoping it’s my good luck track. Without the extensive travel and no time difference to adjust to I would like to have a podium finish.

Do you still do summer training on a chair nailed to a skateboard or have you upgraded your equipment? 😉

Ha, Ha , Ha, not anymore. Upgraded and now use roller skis, works much better for shooting and simulates the position.

What are your plans for summer training?

A busy summer – there was a camp in Bend in June, I just got back from 3 weeks at the Snow Farm in New Zealand. It was good to be back on the snow, it helped break up the summer training. We have a camp in Mammoth Lakes in September, and I will make the 5 hour trip to Canmore for biathlon training as often as I can. If not at a camp, I ski around home following a daily program designed by my coach, along with a weekly strength program.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths – I would have to say would be my determination, and my competitiveness.
Weaknesses – I over think things and like to consistently play around with my sit ski, looking for the perfect fit.

What are your hobbies away from cross country and biathlon?

Really there is not a great amount of time for extra activities, if time and the weather works in my favor I enjoy boating with friends and snowmobiling in the mountains after the end of the season.

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

Finsterau, Germany. I had my best results of my career there so I can not wait to go back.

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

Dorothea Wierer, with Emily Young a close second. She’s like the sister I never wanted.

Does your rifle have a name?

No name, we still aren’t close friends, but I’m working on that.

Describe yourself in three words.

Focused, determined and sarcastic.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Italy
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Marketa Davidova. Who doesn’t love unicorns?
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Sweden
Favourite shooting range: Canmore
Lucky bib number: Haven’t found it yet.
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Brittany Hudak
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Mark Arendz
Best thing about being a biathlete: Travel

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Ian Daffern: The Interview!

Photo Credit: Les Berezowski Photography.

Ian Daffern is the head ski technician for the Canadian Para-nordic team. He has been to five Paralympic Games with the team starting in Salt Lake City and continuing all the way to the Winter Paralympics this past March in PyeongChang. He oversaw the skis for the 14 athletes who won a record 16 medals including 4 gold medals in cross country skiing but more importantly 1 in biathlon! 🙂

You can follow Ian on Twitter: @skiingwithian

Why did you become a ski technician? How long have you worked with the Para-nordic team?

I have been working with the Canadian Para-nordic team for 17 years. In the fall of 2001 Brian and Robin McKeever were looking for a ski technician to help them prepare and compete in the Salt Lake City Paralympics. They had just started with the team on the Para World Cup circuit and needed more ski and wax support on the race days. Since I had experience coaching at the same ski club and was friends with Brian and Robin it was a natural fit and as they say the rest is history. Five Paralympics later and I’m still excited to help as best I can in support of the Para team athletes quest for Gold.

The Canadian Para-nordic team had an amazing Paralympics. How did it feel to contribute towards that success?

Yes it was an unbelievable Paralympics for the team. It was amazing and very satisfying to see Canadian athletes on the podium everyday knowing the wax room technical plan and hard work since Sochi to prepare specifically for Korea was paying off. I have to thank my wax team of Laurent Roux, Bruce Johnson and Bjorn Taylor for believing and contributing to my personal Paralympics wax room goal of trying to have the best skis of the field for every race.

Can you describe what your typical day was like in PyeongChang?

A typical race day started with a 6am alarm followed by breakfast in the village food hall and a 7am bus to the race site. At the site we would check out the track conditions, have a quick discussion about the weather, snow and temperatures and start to prepare and plan the ski and wax testing for the morning prior to the athletes arrival. Once athlete skis, wax and structure selection was made the skis were prepared for racing just before the athletes start time. We had a runner who would bring the skis to the start line from the wax room. Strava records were broken everyday. 😉

Once the races were over, the afternoon was spent prepping, grinding and testing athletes skis for the next day races. Almost every night, due to the athletes success, the wax team would often go to the medal plaza for the 6:30pm ceremony followed by dinner back in the athletes village. After dinner there would be an athlete team meeting followed by a coaches / technicians meeting to go over the next days assignments usually finishing up by 10-11pm each night. Luckily Bruce is an expert at making cappuccinos on a wax iron so we were never short on caffeine!!

What is it like waxing in the cross country relay when you have someone racing two legs? What can you do to the skis in such a short time? Is it a bit stressful?!

It’s more of an adrenaline rush knowing you only have about 6-7 minutes to prep a pair of skis between relay legs. This was the case when Brian and Collin Cameron won bronze in the relay in Korea with each skier doing 2 legs. With the dirty snow conditions the main goal is to clean the skis right away and then apply a layer or two of the best testing flouro liquid or puck as quickly as possible. We were lucky to be able to bring a bench close to the exchange zone so it was fun to be in the thick of the action.

Are you excited about the World Championships coming to Canada? Will you have a wax advantage on home snow?! 😉

I am very excited to have the World Championships this upcoming season in Prince George. Head Coach Robin McKeever and I did a site visit in April to ski the trails and learn more about the conditions we can expect. I think and am hoping we will have a wax advantage since I plan to do some pre World Championship testing and we are familiar with the cold February conditions and snow in Canada. Some of the athletes on our team have competed on these trails before so they know what to expect. It will be a great event with challenging trails, a world class biathlon range and a enthusiastic organizing committee.

Are there any differences in waxing for para cross country than able bodied?

For a skier like Brian who is at a high level as an able bodied skier there are no differences. In classic skiing, grip waxing can slightly change for one arm or no arm skiers depending on the snow conditions as one pole or no poles can effect the amount of grip wax needed to climb the hills. Testing and waxing skate skis for the visually impaired and standing classes would be the same as for an able bodied program.

The biggest difference for sure would be in the sit ski category where there are many factors to consider such as whether the sit skier will use the tracks or race outside the tracks, the fact that the skis are always on the snow, the ability of the sit skier to control the skis on corners and on downhills etc. Most of the testing for sit skiers is done by the sit skiers whenever possible so they can test not only for speed and free glide but also their ability to turn and control the skis on corners. In a pinch though if time is tight one of the techs or coaches can run the sit skis since they have regular ski bindings on them.

Are you responsible for certain athletes skis or do help with them all?

As head technician I am responsible for the overall working of the wax room and all the athletes skis. Unlike many able bodied wax rooms I don’t assign specific techs to certain athletes skis as we are too small and few in number but instead have developed our own system of making sure each athlete has the correct skis for race day. I work closely with all the athletes each race to discuss and make sure the correct skis get tested pre race with the help of other coaches and technicians. Our grip wax specialist Laurent Roux will work only on classic skis but for all athletes on the team.

Have you ever had any waxidents? (accidents with wax)

Well most of our waxidents involve our grip waxer. 😉 He once set our wax table on fire with a heat gun and since he used a lot of soft klister wax in Korea our door knobs and everything else were always sticky. Perhaps the funniest waxident in Korea though was when I found klister wax all over our ski caddy which is used to take skis out on course for testing. It took a lot of wax remover to clean it up so I could use it for glide test skis again….

Do you have any good waxing tips for the non-expert?

Best advice for novices looking to make fast skate skis is to keep it simple. Sometimes the least expensive waxes can be the fastest especially in colder conditions so don’t be fooled by the price or amount of flouro as it doesn’t always correlate to ski speed. High flouro powders, gels, liquids and pucks for sure can be faster in humid and wetter snow so in those conditions try some of the newer waxing methods out such as the fleece buffer applications instead of ironing in powders and creating lots of fumes and smoke unless you have proper safety masks or good ventilation system. Also when the snow is wet, ski structure to prevent suction is more important than the wax so it’s good to invest in some basic ski structuring tools.

The Para-nordic season is pretty short with usually 3 World Cups and a major Championships. What do you do for the rest of the year?

Currently I am in Bend, Oregon (this was in June) where the Canadian Para team is having their first camp of the season. We normally have 3-4 camps in the off season which I help out at with the biggest being a 3 week skiing camp at the Snow Farm in New Zealand in August. Besides assisting at camps I am involved with planning, budgeting and purchasing equipment and wax for the upcoming racing season. Part of the this involves visiting the Fischer ski factory in October to select and pick up athletes skis followed by testing and a camp in Ramsau on the Dachstein glacier. Once we can ski in Canmore on the Frozen Thunder stored snow loop I am working with the athletes testing new skis and wax and preparing for the upcoming season. I often end up waxing at non para races throughout the winter season also.

Describe yourself in three words.

As a ski technician I would say organized, calm and relaxed.


Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlete: Mark Arendz of course!
Favourite track: Snow Farm, New Zealand.
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Sweden
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Samurai design on Mark’s rifle
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Italy
Funniest ski tech on the World Cup: Our grip waxer Laurent Roux !
Nicest ski tech on the World Cup: Steiner from the Norwegian Para Team
Best thing about being a ski tech: Celebrating a great day with the athletes.

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Collin Cameron: The Interview!

Canadian Collin Cameron is a para-biathlete and cross country skier in the sitting category. At the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games he won three bronze medals, two in biathlon and one in cross country at his first attempt. The 30-year-old also won his first World Cup para-nordic race in PyeongChang in 2017 in the cross country Sprint. He was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that causes a shortening of the lower limbs and an under-development of muscles and tendons in the legs. Currently living in Sudbury, Ontario he works as a a safety compliance and driver trainer. He received a nomination for best facial hair in the Biathlon23 Awards – probably his best achievement to date! 😉

Why did you become a biathlete?

I was getting classified in early 2016 at the team USA nationals camp in Vermont and my coach at the time (Kaspar Wirz), basically said you should try this, so I did. I saw it as an opportunity for more race starts! I had never shot in my life, nor did I have much interest in doing it if I’m totally honest.

Two L’s in Collin! What’s that about? Do you get annoyed when people only spell it with one L? Or have you developed some coping mechanisms to deal with it?!! 😉


My mother always liked the name, but didn’t want it pronounced as colon so she figured having a second L would assure that never happened and also make it a little more unique. I commonly get just one L, so I’m just used to it now.

You got two bronze medals in biathlon at the Paralympic in PyeongChang. Where did that come from?! Tell me about the races and your emotions at the end?

Not really sure where it came from. I don’t train for biathlon at home, only just getting access to a range a month before Games, my only training until that point was at training camps or during World Cups. My skiing was not the best early season, but my shooting was still there in Canmore (World Cup 1), same can be said for Oberried (WC2). Things just came together at the right time for me in Korea and I found some of my speed and pace I was missing all season until then. The 7.5km race was the first race of the Games and I set it out as a warm-up race for me to get all the bugs out and get things moving in preparation for the cross country sprint which is the race I was planning everything around. So it was an obvious shock for me to be in third after crossing the line! I didn’t really believe it.

The 15km race was interesting because it was a bit of a last minute decision to race it. I had only done the Individual once ever before (in Oberried), but we were confident in my shooting so we figured I should just enter. I knew I was in it after the last round of shooting when all the range staff were at the bottom of the first climb yelling at me to go. I managed to find a bit extra turnover after hearing that. I was met by our team psych Dr. J after the finish line and he said I was sitting third with guys still to come. I thought for sure that was going to be temporary, knowing there are some amazing biathletes still out there that hadn’t finished. Once it was confirmed though, I was so thrilled, probably more so than after the 7.5km race. It was an amazing feeling sharing the podium that day with Dan Cnossen (who had a phenomenal games), and Martin Fleig (World Champion from Finsterau). I think also it was a sweeter feeling because I was able to regroup after my 4th place in the cross country sprint, which I was somewhat disappointed with because I had targeted that as my main race. The staff on the team said I came to Korea as a sprinter and left a biathlete, which is hard to argue with!

Sorry to repeat it but you finished 4th in the cross country sprint in such a close finish. Were you a bit gutted about that or happy that you were still challenging for a medal?

Totally gutted. We had planned all the other races around that day (and possibly relay day), so it definitely felt like a disappointment to be so close, in what is normally my strongest event. All that being said, it was still probably one of my best races! I also think it was a super important learning opportunity for me. The biggest gain from that was the discussion with my coaches on how to deal with that disappointment and how to transfer that into the next few days of racing. That was huge for me, and I was able to turn that missed chance into a second bronze in the 15km biathlon.

You won a bronze in the cross country relay with Brian McKeever in the secretly Scottish team! What was that race like for you?

Being on that open relay team was by far one of my favourite moments of the Games. It was a huge honour to be on the same team with a guy like Brian, who is a legend in the para world. I think it was also a testament to how hard I worked all year to stay healthy and find my form for the Games that the coach and Brian had the confidence in me to have us as a two man team. I was really looking forward to this opportunity since mid summer when we did some time trials in New Zealand when our coach was looking at possible relay teams. I had never done a relay before and the idea of being on a relay team, and possibly the same relay team with Brian, was definitely motivating and maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity. We had a really good idea going in that it would be a three person team for the open relay, but it wasn’t until the day before that things were shuffled around and I found out I was going to be doing two legs, not just one with Brian. I got a crash course from Brian and Graham Nishikawa his guide the morning of race day on how the exchange zone worked and that was pretty much it! We had a bit of fortune in the fact that the Ukrainian team had a time penalty for an early exchange, and I lost us a tonne of time on my second leg because I has some pole issues on the last climb. It was definitely an emotional experience for me, finishing 4th again, to having that upgraded moments later to 3rd. To finish that day on the podium with Brian, his guide Russell Kennedy (and Graham, who guided Brian on the first lap and every bit deserved sharing that moment with us) will always be a fond moment when I look back at my first Paralympics.

PyeongChang was your first Paralympic Games. What did you make of the whole experience and what did you learn from it?

I learned that you can’t always measure success on how many medals you get. I had some of my best races at the Games and finished 4th and 5th. The 4th on sprint day was a very important day for me as a whole when I look at going forward with this sport and what I want to achieve in it.

What are your goals for this season in biathlon? Will you focus everything on performing well in Prince George at your home World Championships?

Main focus this year is to continue to learn and keep my focus for the next Winter Games in 2022.

You don’t live in Canmore like some of the rest of the team. And you have a job. Where and when do you train?

I train after work almost every day, sometimes on some local roads closer to home, others a little further out of town on the old highway for longer workouts. I start my workday at 4am so I can finish around 2pm to have training time in the afternoon before my wife is done work so we can still have a somewhat normal life together in the evenings, which is super important.

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

I have to give a shout out to Scott Meenagh here. He said in an interview a year or two ago that I was his favourite biathlete. Right back at ya, Scotty!
(Not any old interview Collin, he said it in a biathlon23 interview!!!)

Does your rifle have a name?

The rifle I use is technically the teams rifle, so I never thought of naming it. I’d have to give this some serious thought when the days comes that I have my own rifle!

Describe yourself in three words.
easy-going, driven, and hairy.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Totally neutral, can’t pick a favourite.
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Mark Arendz. His samurai design is pretty cool and unique on the para side, as there are not many custom rifle designs.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Our suit design for the Games is my favourite!
Favourite shooting range: Canmore. It’s tough to beat that view!
Lucky bib number: 3
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Emily Young. Purely based on her love and passion for the sport of biathlon. (? 😉 )
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Martin Fleig and Trygve S. Larson.
Best thing about being a biathlete: 3 extra race start opportunities 😉

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Biathlon23 Awards 2017/18!!!

awards

Welcome to the 5th anniversary of the Biathlon23 awards! (imaginary fanfare!) I know, I am as surprised as you that it has lasted this long! This year we have a couple of special guests giving out awards. I couldn’t afford much so no Leo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence. Instead we have the winner of the OLYMPICKS (my Olympic competition) and also the runner-up. Look out for their awards below. It could be the first and last time I let anyone else run amok on my blog! Their awards are all their own work! Mine are of course subject to the the same rigorous system used to ensure fairness in the nominations and winners – I pick them and it’s totally biased! Read, enjoy and feel free to disagree! 🙂

After the news that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is retiring, these awards are dedicated to him for being such an amazing competitor and a fabulous servant to the greatest sport in the world. Thanks Ole, will will miss you!

Most hits on the blog (so most popular):
At one point this was going to a para-biathlete which I was very excited about considering it was Scotland’s Scott Meenagh but then the Olympics happened! A certain lady became very, very, very popular after some good performances finishing 5th in two races. In fact she now has the most popular interview on my blog ever and by a very long way. She also got her first podium finishing second in the last race of the season. I hope all the attention is due to how good she is at biathlon and not how beautiful she is but that may be wishful thinking!

Winner: Paulina Fialkova

Strangest search on the blog:
I love people! I love them because they are strange! Here is a selection of some of the strangest searches on the blog this season! I get a lot about gossip, boyfriends/girlfriends of biathletes and people looking for nude pictures! Sorry wrong blog for all that but there is always some gold in between! For example:

“Paralympic biathlon, Brittany Hudak skiing in 2018, biathlon 2018 Paralympic Games”: YES! I will make you all love para-biathlon! ALL OF YOU!
“nationality of 2018 Olympic sprint skier Bolshanov”: That is f#####g cross-country! Get off my blog!
“dorothea wierer the blast”: I’ve got nothing!
“how to pronounce einar bjoerndalen’s name”: I believe it is ‘Ole’ like the Spanish!
“anton guigonnat, elisa vitozzi, samulson biathlon”: How they will be known from now on!
“klemen bauer nude”: I suspect it was Klemen himself searching for this!
“größe paulina fialkova”: She is neither big nor fat! 😉
“andre chisholm”: Canada’s wax tech Andrew just became all European and sexy sounding! 😉
“linstrum bistholon switzerland”: Makes perfect sense to me!

Winner:“french biathlete Anais Chevalier fires her rifle”: Well yes every couple of kilometeres in fact! It’s kind of what biathletes do! 😉

Best Facial Hair:
Some strong competition coming from the para-biathletes this season with Collin Cameron and Aaron Pike sporting some majestic full beards. The IBU had the usual suspects, last year’s champ Michael Roesch and Benjamin Weger. However this year there is only one choice. At the Olympics a mad Italian decided to dye his moustache in the colours of the Italian flag. I guess he really wanted this award!

Winner: Lukas Hofer

Best earrings:
Ladies you have been disappointing this year with the earring choices. None have inspired me much. In fact this season it’s not even a woman who will win this. It’s not even an earring! For some reason someone thought it would be a good idea to get their nose pierced. But not on the side, oh no, through the middle. Doing his best impression of a bull and risking getting it caught on something ripping his whole nose off, for bravery it has to go to the American!

Winner: Leif Nordgren

Best fall:
It turns out falls are better when you see them on TV and not in real life. The best one on TV this season was in the Oslo Men’s Sprint. It was the mighty who fell breaking a ski pole and you just know all the other biathletes were happy to see that even he makes mistakes! Well I was anyway. Admit it you were secretly pleased too! 😉 Of course he falls just as well as he skis and so got up and still made the podium!

Winner: Martin Fourcade

Best quote in a press conference/interview:
The question was “The teams ran 151 penalty loops and you shot 10/10 today, what was your secret?”
The answer was ” From now on I will shoot with closed eyes! Maybe it’s better, maybe it was the secret!”
I knew it! I knew that’s what most biathletes do! Now I have the proof!
Also watch for Lukas Hofer’s reaction to the question! 😉
You can watch it here from about 3:48.

Winner: Dominik Windisch

Best biathlon video:
There exists in the darkest corner of France, I believe it’s commonly known as the Savoie region, a collection of odd winter sports people who make crazy videos of a nordic nature. Their third installment of ‘One of Those Nordic Days’ is another madcap showcase of all things on snow. They seem to have strange obsession with minions and chainsaws but c’est la vie! Worryingly they seems to have included people who are not biathletes in it! Once they sort this out they will surely win an Oscar!
You can watch it here. (Look out for a certain Simon Fourcade as Rambo!)

Winner: Team Suitcase sorry I mean Valoche! 😉

Best rifle design:
Another disappointing rifle design season. I mean seriously people you have all summer to come up with a design and then choose one block colour or a wooden stock. YAWN! Two people did make the effort thankfully! Marketa Davidova went for pink with unicorns! Amazing! However it wasn’t quite enough to win. Taking inspiration from teammate Anton Shipulin’s dragon, this lady has a tiger carved into the front of her rifle! RAAR! (That’s meant to be a tiger by the way!)

Winner: Svetlana Mironova

Flower Gatherer of the season: (awarded by Nuno Magalhães, Portugal winner of the OLYMPICKS!)

Biathlon’s flower ceremony, which rewards the individuals placed between 4th and 6th in every World Cup event, is very unique to the sport and the spark for a particular cocktail of feelings, ranging from the satisfaction of a job well done to the pain of falling just short of the podium. It stands to reason then that, taken in the context of a whole season, claiming a litany of flower bouquets is both a reflection of consistency throughout the year and a fair bit of bad luck.

Thus, in order to identify the biathletes that fell most frequently into this grey area, I went back to the final standings of every non-relay WC race contested in 2017-18 and tallied the points for every male and female competitor, distributing 3-2-1 points for each fourth, fifth and sixth position.

Lisa Vittozzi (2 fourths, 2 fifths, 0 sixths (2-2-0), 10 pts) and Kaisa Makarainen (1-2-3, 10 pts) share the top spot for the women. On the men’s side, Benedikt Doll (3-0-0, 9 pts), Arnd Peiffer (1-1-5, 10 pts) and Emil Hegle Svendsen (3-1-0, 11 pts) put up a good fight, but the award ultimately belongs to a German with (3-2-1, 14 pts), who I hope will find some solace after a season that featured several near misses, no WC podiums for the first time since 2012-13, and that heart-breaking photo-finish defeat to Martin Fourcade in PyeongChang.
He might have to be nicknamed the florist from now on! 😉

Winner: Simon Schempp

Best ski suit:
Norway receives a special commendation for their suit. It’s always good. The Czech Republic I also like. Canada almost won this in an excellent comeback from the ‘Where’s Wally (Waldo)’ debacle! There was a lot of red, white and blue suits this season but one stood out for me above the rest. Paulina Fialkova told me it was her favourite and it’s mine too.

Winner: Slovakia

Worst ski suit:
Russia in maroon? Germany in green and yellow? Some strange colour choices this season. Belarus dressing like frogs for the Olympics! However one suit stood out (quite literally) from the rest and that was the bananas on skis. Strangely it grew on me over the season, kind of like mould on cheese, but not enough to avoid this award. I think it’s just the block yellow that does it. Throw a bit of blue in somewhere. Not even Zlatan would be seen head to toe in yellow!

Winner: Sweden

Best Biathlete23:
The easiest decision I have ever had to make for these awards! Turn up at the Olympics, win a gold medal in the first race. What a star! She couldn’t have done it without the bib though!

Winner: Laura Dahlmeier

Biggest Improver:
This goes to a biathlete who has always been good but this season looked like the real deal. Before this year she only had 1 podium finish to her name. This season she got three plus another three fourth place finishes. At the Olympics she was 4th in the Mass Start, 6th in the Sprint and 11th in the Pursuit. She won a bronze medal as part of the Mixed Relay team and her shooting has been exceptional. She moved from 27th to 6th in the Total Score and it’s just a matter of time before she wins her first race. I’m sure it won’t be long until she becomes Italy’s number one biathlete.

Winner: Lisa Vittozzi

Best Team Performance:
This one was pretty obvious to me. As a fan of biathlon I like biathletes who shoot well and I like to see them beat the teams who can ski faster than them. The conditions were exactly right for this at the Olympics with the weather levelling the playing field. The two biathletes who would normally be seen as weaker really shone and the team shot better than anyone else on the day in a victory for shooting over ski speed. Although it does help if you have Darya Domracheva on last leg for the skiing! 😉

Winner: Belarus Women’s Relay Team

Biathlon23’s performance of the season:
After finishing 7th in the Sprint and 5th in the Pursuit at the Olympics it wasn’t a surprise to see this person do well in the Individual. It was a surprise that she won it! One of just three women who shot the perfect 20/20 the 22-year-old turned in a faultless performance in the ultimate test of a biathlete. Actually there was one small fault, she was wearing bib 24!

Winner: Hanna Öberg

IBU Biathlete of the Year:
I know what you are thinking Martin Fourcade will win this! WRONG! It must be Kaisa then! WRONG again! They are always at the top either winning or very close to it. This season we saw a biathlete who despite having 2 Olympic gold medals was never that great on the World Cup. Previously she had won 5 World Cup races in her entire career and she now she has won 5 in one season. She has shown much better consistency just missing out on the Overall by 3 points but winning the Sprint and Pursuit titles. Oh and she won 3 medals at the Olympics, a gold and 2 silvers!

Winner: Anastasiya Kuzmina

IPC Para-biathlete of the Year:
There were so many amazing performances by the biathletes at the Paralympic Games that it’s almost impossible to choose a winner. There were many multiple medallists and some stunning performances. I am giving it to someone who got six medals in six races (even though 3 were in cross country I will overlook such treachery just this once). He won his first biathlon Paralympic title and also a silver and bronze in the two other biathlon races hitting 49 out of 50 targets. He added another silver and two bronze in the sport we don’t like to mention. Apart from that has done two biathlon23 interviews which also helps when it comes to winning awards! 😉

Winner: Mark Arendz

Junior Biathlete of the Year:
A difficult decision for this award as there are a lot of good Juniors around at the moment. The winner finished second in the Junior World Cup Overall but actually with the same points as the winner. She also won a gold medal in the Women’s Relay at the Junior World Championships as well as two bronze medals in the Sprint and Pursuit. She won a race on the World Cup in the Obertilliach Sprint and was third in the Mixed Relay there too. She grabbed another podium in Nove Mesto also coming third in the Sprint. At just 21 she looks like a great prospect for France and dare I say it, is already better than her big brother Aristide! 😉

Winner: Myrtille Begue

Youth Biathlete of the Year: (awarded by Jeff Mattarocci, USA runner-up in the Olympicks)

I’ll choose a member of the US Biathlon Team. She is an under 16 athlete, who regularly competes with the Youth ladies and can hold her own with them. She just came off a great US Biathlon Championships, where she won every race she entered, two as a youth and one as an under 16. The future looks good for the US ladies team! 🙂
We will have to keep an eye out for her!

Winner: Lexie Madigan

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Biathlon Books!

What did you get for Christmas? Martin Fourcade’s autobiography? Maybe J.J Hensley’s ‘Bolt Action Remedy’? Scott Dixon’s ‘Pup The Brave’? That’s right 2017 was the year of the biathlon book! Never one to miss out on a trend this year’s Christmas holiday post will guide you through the most famous of biathlon books. However I’m not sure how many of these are available to buy in the shops! 😉

Lord of the Olympic Rings:
One man’s amazing adventure to collect the five Olympic Rings! It details his perilous journey through Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver. Not only does he find the rings in order to destroy them so no one can beat his records but he also wins 6 gold medals, 4 silver and a bronze. Aided by his small, big footed Norwegian colleagues and fighting against Orcs with French, German and Russian accents Ole Einar Bjorndalen has a difficult task. Luckily he never gets any older and so expect sequels from Sochi, 2 more gold medals,and PyeongChang.

The Snowman:
A young Norwegian detective with amazing hair, let’s call him Emil, sets out to discover a murderer in snowy Oslo. The only clue is that he leaves a snowman outside the house of his victims with a World Cup winners medal around its neck. The action is spread across the city but comes to a shocking conclusion at the Holmenkollen arena. Will Emil find the murderer in time?

The Three Musketeers:
You may know them as Porthos, Athos and Aramis but we know them better as Florent, Fabien and Emilien Claude! Florent is called back from Belgium by his brothers to help fight their arch enemies! That’s right the Gasparin sisters – Selina, Elisa and Aita! A swashbuckling battle begins to decide whose family has the best three biathlon siblings. The action moves from France to Switzerland, from Annecy to Lenzerheide. Which family will survive and who will be in the firing line?

Fakenstein:
Dr. Jakov Fakenstein decides, a bit gruesomely, to take parts from various biathletes to make a super biathlete. For example he uses the eyes of Nadezhda Skardino for shooting, the legs of Julian Eberhard for skiing, the brain of Laura Dahlmeier, the shooting speed of Simon Eder, the beard of Michael Roesch, one arm each from the Semerenko twins and the torso of Simon Fourcade.
However things go terribly wrong and he ends up creating a monster. He calls him Klemen. Dr. Fakenstein’s choice of name definitely not mine! 😉

BrendANN of GREEN Gables:

Brendann, a young orphan from Hay River, is sent to Prince Edward Island to work on the Arendz family farm. At school he meets Rosanna who teases him and he immediately dislikes her! However it is school so secretly they are of course in love. The book chronicles their adventures as they both take up biathlon and travel the world competing for Canada. AWW!

The Bjorn Legacy:
When you are bourne (see what I did there) into the family your future is already decided. No not the Mafia – the Bjoerndalen’s! Yes this is the story of Dag Bjoerndalen, his little brother Ole Einar and his son Dag Sander and their obsession with biathlon. It tells their life stories and how they passed on the ‘family business’ to young Dag to race in the Youth/Junior World Championships. There is a lot, and I mean a lot of shooting, in this one!

The Other Bølyn Boy:
A tale of two brothers who vie for the affection of King Harald of Norway. First the elder brother Tarjei wins his favour by winning the World Cup and everything is going well. But then younger brother Johannes arrives at court and tries to impress the King with his speed and shooting skills. Who will come out on top? Who will the King choose as his favourite? I do hope no one loses their head!

A Song of Ice and Fire:

She is Gabriela of the House Koukalova, the First of Her Name, Czech born, Queen of the tracks, the range and the podium, Queen of Make Up, Khaleesi of the Great Snowy Mountain, Protector of the Rifle, Lady Regnant of the Seven Biathlon Kingdoms, Breaker of Ski Poles and Wearer of Earrings.

Yes this is the tale of Gabi Koukalova. Her epic tale of trying to rule the seven kingdoms of biathlon. Aided in quest by her loyal team of Michal Snowsingr, Ned-ezdha Stark-dino, Lukas Hodor, Direwolf-gang Pichler, Pod-chufarova, Iryna Varys-nets, Lord Lowell Baelish, Jo-anne-jen Reid, Sebastian Samwell-son and Tommen Lahaye-Goffart.

She has to fight many battles to win the Crystal Globe and maybe even some Olympic medals! She sings some songs along the way too. There is also a dragon even if it does just appear on Anton Shipulin’s rifle!

(I’m warning you now this is a long read! Currently in 5 weighty tomes and unfinished so you might not want to start it!)

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Mark Arendz: The Interview 2!

Mark Arendz is a Canadian para biathlete and cross country skier who competes in the standing races. He is a double World Champion in biathlon after winning gold in the Sprint (7.5km) and Middle distance (12.5km) races in Finsterau in February 2017. He also won silver in the Individual (15km) biathlon race as well as bronze in both the 10km and Open Relay cross country races. The 27-year-old from Prince Edward Island also has a silver and bronze medal in biathlon from the Sochi Paralympics. This is his second interview for biathlon23 which of course eclipses all these achievements! 😉

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

You are a double biathlon World Champion! How does that feel? Can you describe your winning races in Finsterau?

Reassuring, confidence building. All of my performances in Finsterau confirmed that my training and preparations were right on. My focus is on the process, controlling factors I have control over. If I can cross a finish line knowing I executed a perfect race plan, then I can be satisfied with the result regardless of what it is. The first race of the Championships, the Middle Distance, was about staying clean and consistent skiing times. That race set a great tone for me throughout the rest of the Championships. The Sprint was a tight finish and led to some tense moments afterward awaiting the results. I skied a strong race, but success for me was hitting the five targets in the second bout. After going clean; it was simple, get to the finish as fast as possible.

You did 6 races at the World Championships and medalled in 5 of them. How tough is it to do that both mentally and physically?

True, I did a lot of races in Finsterau. I had to take each day by its self. I woke up each morning with my plan for the day. I kept my focus on that plan and what I could control. In the end, I was fortunate enough to celebrate a few evenings. After four races, I was feeling quite beat up on that final rest day. The body recovered well enough so that I could wake up the next morning and win the Biathlon Sprint. I finished the week with a surprising third place in the Cross Country Middle Distance.

Are you going to do all the events in PyeongChang? It’s a pretty tough schedule, have you considered targeting specific races?

In PyeongChang, at the Games, my priority is on the three Biathlon races. If the body is holding up and everything is going well, my next priority will be on being prepared to be part of a Relay team. Any other races will be a day to day decision based on health and energy levels.

You had some good results on the World Cup in PyeongChang. Do you like the tracks and range there?

I have been at the venue in PyeongChang twice now. I do enjoy the courses there. There are a lot of working sections, and some big, steep climbs. The wind is a little unpredictable which should make for some interesting shooting. I look forward to battling out it with my fellow competitors.

You get to start the season in your back garden in Canmore! What is it like racing at home? Do you feel some extra pressure to perform well?

It is always exciting to race at home, in front of family and friends. To have the edge in knowing every single snowflake on the course. Or how the weather will affect the conditions. The key to success will be to distinguish between an everyday training session and a World Cup race morning! For performance, there is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed!

What have you been doing for summer training?

A busy summer with several training camps in Bend and Mammoth Lakes in the United States. The Snow Farm in New Zealand where I was on-snow for three weeks. Throughout the rest of the summer, I have been doing a lot of roller skiing, biking both on the road and off. Of course running, exploring the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Some time spent in the gym as well. It is all about the fine details that will make the difference come March.

It will be your third Paralympic Games in PyeongChang. How do you think para-biathlon has changed over the years? Is there anything you would like to change about it for the future?

The depth in the fields has been one of the biggest changes in the past few years. There are several competitors in each category that are capable of winning. I would love to see the Pursuit format perfected and replace the Middle Distance race at major competitions.

You are the Nordic skiing athlete representative. What does that involve and are you enjoying it?

At the test event in PyeongChang, I was elected by the other athletes to become the Athlete Representative. It is a new role I am taking on and so far I have enjoyed. Being part of the decisions, shaping the future of the sport. The sport of Nordic Skiing is off and running but now is the time to make decisions on how we approach the future. I have been on conference calls once every two weeks. Once we get to the Winter, there will be a few meetings at several of the World Cups to openly discuss issues and hopefully, brainstorm ideas to make our sport better.

Obviously training takes up a lot of your time but what do you do in your free time? Any exciting hobbies we should know about?!

Besides following Biathlon23, no, there are no exciting hobbies as of yet. I’m open to any suggestions!

This is the greatest answer ever given to a Biathlon23 interview question!!! 🙂

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Brittany Hudak: The Interview!

Brittany Hudak is a Canadian para biathlete. The 24-year-old from Prince Albert competes in the standing races and made her World Cup debut in 2013. She was born without the lower part of her left arm and was inspired to pursue para nordic sports seriously after meeting Canadian para cross-country skier Colette Bourgonje. She has already competed at the Paralympic Games in Sochi 2014 and is looking forward to the next Games in PyeongChang in March 2018. As well as racing in cross country and biathon she is also studying for a degree in social work.

You can follow Brittany on Twitter: @brittanyhudak93
and Instagram: brittany_hudak

Why did you become a biathlete?

I grew up on an acreage in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan so I had shot paintball guns and pellet guns as a kid. I mainly aimed the paintball gun at my older brother and then shot army men and old pop cans with the pellet gun. Then I first tried the biathlon rifles when I was 18 and immediately loved it! I guess I always enjoyed shooting, so the idea of combining skiing and shooting was appealing to me.
I also like how every race can feel so different and it’s always exciting. I find I just keep coming back for more because of the challenge. I knew I would never be bored in this sport! Plus, shooting is FUN! Also, I really like nature. Skiing in all different places really makes me happy.

How do you assess last season? Were you happy with your performances?

Last season was difficult for me. For those that don’t know, I struggled with injury last season. I had anterior compartment syndrome which proved to be a challenge in getting through my skate races. The symptoms were the worst in my biathlon and skate races so luckily, I had classic technique races I could compete in as well. Sadly, many of my performances were below what I would have hoped for but I was still able to set a goal for each race. Even though sometimes that meant my goal was to just shoot clean or work on race strategy, I felt like I always did my best.
On a positive side, I was able to really work on the mental aspects of sport as well as my shooting. I actually found that with my skate technique being put on the back burner due to injury, I put a lot more focus on improving my shooting. I had some of the best shooting I’ve ever had in my races last season, so I was thoroughly happy with the progression I made with my ability to shoot over the year.

The World Cup returns to Canmore this season. Are you excited about racing at home? Do you get nervous or feel extra pressure racing in Canada?

It’s pretty rare that we get to race in Canada on our circuit so I’m really excited about racing at home. I’m a little nervous to be racing at home just because I know there will be so many people rooting for us so I would really like to perform well. That being said, I know that I will be able to feed off the home crowd energy and push a little harder while out there on the tracks.

What are your plans for summer training? Is there anything specific that you would like to improve?

The first part of my summer has been easing back into training while recovering from surgery. May and June consisted of a lot of biking since that was the mode of training that I was first able to do after surgery. For July, I will be hanging around Canmore, AB. for training. My first training camp with the team will be in New Zealand for three weeks in August. This camp is on snow so I’m really striving for improving my ski technique. Since I’ve only been skiing 5 years I still put a significant emphasis on refining my overall ski technique and efficiency. Then again this appears to be a sport where you’re always working on your technique so I would say that is mainly my focus for the summer months.

Are you excited about the up coming Paralympic Games? What are your goals for racing in PyeongChang?

The Games are coming up really fast which has me both excited and anxious! I’m excited to race at the Paralympic Games but I’m amazed at how fast the four years leading into the Games went by. I remember having so many goals in mind and now that the time is fast approaching, I’m reassessing some of those goals and fine tuning a bit. I think my main goals for the Games are to have performances that resemble my true ski ability. As simple as it sounds, I’m really striving to have races that are the best of my ability. More specifically I’m really hoping to do well in the long-distance biathlon. Shooting clean in this race is very important and I would say with my shooting results in this discipline last year, I would love to shoot clean in this race at the games. Really hoping for good shooting results at the Games!

Can you describe for my readers (who probably don’t follow much para-biathlon) how you shoot with one arm?

So how it works for shooting with one arm is we are allowed to have a stand that the stock of the rifle can rest on while we shoot. Since many of the athletes have one shorter or no arm at all, we need something that allows the barrel to be pointed in the right direction. This stand has a spring attached that flexes in all directions. The rules are that the spring must be lined up straight while shooting and not being forced in any direction.
The easy part for us in biathlon is that we approach the range and our rifles are brought out to the stand with a magazine loaded.

Do you train alone mostly or with your teammates? Do you ever train with the biathletes from the IBU team?

While I do love to be social, I would say for the majority of my training I do it on my own. Depending on the day, I will train with my teammates or coach Robin McKeever. If I’m training in Canmore, I will have shooting practices with my teammate Mark Arendz and will often do intensity sessions with him as well. If I’m away on a training camp, then I definitely train a lot more with my teammates. I do put an emphasis on training alone for some sessions so that I can tune in to what I’m doing and really spend the time I need to work on something specific.
While I don’t specifically train with the biathletes like Rosanna Crawford, I do see them on the trails quite often! It’s really inspiring to get to be around so many high level skiers in one place!

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?

Our team has been fairly consistent with producing results, so this in turn has led to a rewarding amount of support and funding. Our training centre is based out of Canmore so all our support staff are here as well. We have access to our national team head coach Robin on a daily basis as well as physio, massage and wax techs. As long as we produce results, our program will continue to earn funding that goes to cover the costs of getting support like physio, wax techs, coaching and travelling to competitions. We are ever so fortunate to have such amazing staff because I think it helps keep the team progressing forward with their goals.

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?

I’ve considered trying to do both a winter and summer sport. I think it would be cool to compete in shooting for a summer sport. I’ve looked into it a bit and found a few different options for shooting categories. I don’t think it would hamper my training for cross-country or biathlon either so that’s a bonus! Other than that, I would choose swimming as another sport. In Saskatchewan, I lived near many lakes so swimming has always been a passion of mine. I don’t know any technique for swimming but I just love being in the water.

What are your hobbies away from biathlon and cross country?

Does university count as a hobby? Just kidding. I do take online courses for a degree in social work which takes up a fair amount of my time but I enjoy many things. If it’s something outdoors, you can count me in! Whether it’s hiking, fishing or swimming I have a real passion for the great outdoors so you can often find me wandering outside. Or perhaps reading an interesting book and writing my genius ideas in my journal.

Does your rifle have a name?

Strangely enough I haven’t named my rifle.

Describe yourself in three words.

Goofy, adventurous, determined

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): France
Favourite track: I don’t think I could ever pick just one!
Favourite shooting range: middle of nowhere Saskatchewan. Technically not an official range, but doesn’t that make it more exciting?
Lucky bib number: 93
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Myself… I think I’m hilarious.
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Mark Arendz…he’s single ladies.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Being able to travel the world with a ski bag and a rifle.

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