Tag Archives: para-biathlon

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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Scott Meenagh: The Interview!

Scott Meenagh is one of Great Britain’s newest para biathletes. (OK so he also does cross country but that is not so important!) He was born on the 16th of September 1989 and is from Cumbernauld in Scotland. He comes from a military background and he served in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment. Whilst serving in Helmand province in Afghanistan he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and lost both his legs. Scott has competed as a rower and has taken part in the Invictus Games and he will do so again this September in Toronto. His target is to go to the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang next March to take part in the sitting cross country and biathlon races.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @SMeenagh

Why did you decide to become a biathlete?

I was lucky enough to be in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Games and was completely in awe of the sit skiers! It just looked incredible. Such physicality along with technical ability. Also being an ex soldier the skill of being able to shoot accurately under physical strain is a skill to be proud of!

Last season was your first World Cup and World Championships in para Nordic. How do you assess the season? Was it a massive learning curve? What did you learn about biathlon?

My first season was fast and furious. Every single race was a chance to learn something completely new and work on the short term season goals I had set myself. I only finally entered biathlon races towards the back end of the season and that was a huge learning curve. I think patience is truly a virtue in the biathlon world!

Where do you get the funding and support to be able to compete in para biathlon?

I have been lucky enough to be supported firstly by the Armed Forces Para Snow sports team (AFPST) and Help for Heroes on the journey into the sport as I am an ex serviceman. Recently I have been supported by the Scottish Institute of Sport (SAPA) funding for athletes bidding to make it to PyeongChang 2018.

You are also a rower (which is frowned upon as it is a summer sport!). How much of the skills for rowing cross over into skiing?

Rowing has truly been helpful on my journey into the Winter world. The sport is equally as physical and the hard training regime is similar to that of biathlon.

Being part of the well established GB Rowing team Paralympic programme helped me learn how to train as a full time athlete and pay attention to the little details that become the big things in performance sport, both skills I could bring across to Para Biathlon and Nordic whose programme is very much in its infancy and it’s truly exciting and special to be part of that journey.


What have you already done for summer training and what is the plan until the season starts?

I have been well on my way into the new season since the end of April. Lots of base miles on my hand bike and weights training. I have recently returned from our first snow camp of the new season in Oberhof, Germany.

Roller skiing is a massive part of my training. I also run a lot on my carbon fibre running blades.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you most need to improve on in biathlon?

I feel my strength lays in my ability to work hard and really put the extra effort in. I am willing to push myself hard in training and racing. I also feel I am becoming a student of the sport. I want to learn from every experience I have and from the incredible coaches and athletes around the World Cup circuit.

In terms of my areas I aim to improve. Technical ability into fast corners has been a constant work on for me along with the ability to race with my head up and looking for the best lines etc. I feel I want to become a more intelligent skier. Pick the right lines and times to work hard/recover.

Patience is something I aim to work hard on when it comes to range time. Switching off from hard skiing to being composed on the range can prove a real challenge. I’m loving the journey of learning.

What are your goals for this season in para nordic?

This season I want to improve on the areas I fell short on last season and go into the coming World Cup season as a far more rounded skier. Focusing hard on my technical ability along side the power endurance it requires to climb multiple hills with just your arms.

You went to the World Cup round in PyeongChang? What did you think of the shooting range and the tracks there? Do they suit you or did you find them difficult?

I LOVED PyeongChang! What an incredible place! The course is looking superb. Lots of tough climbs on the course which is a challenge I am relishing. The lack of snow especially in the afternoons may prove challenging at Games time but I am confident Korea will put on a special show! The shooting range is really well laid out. A little on the windy side at times but that just keeps things interesting!

You have also competed in the Invictus Games and are going to do so again this season. There is no biathlon in them!!! What are you going to do and what are they like to compete in?

The Invictus Games are fantastic! I am extremely proud to have competed there and medalled in the past. The games were the stepping stone for me into full time sport. This year I will be running and rowing, giving me plenty of challenge to compete in different distances over a short period of time. A nice way to test myself and experience a Games environment with a view to getting things right at the Paralympics! The energy an Invictus Games brings is very unique. The people who compete there inspire me every day. They really define how special sport can be to recovery.

I hear you are a bit of a dare devil. What have you already done and what would you like to do in the future?

Haha! I’m curious to who you’ve heard this from!

Well I guess if I used to jump out of planes for a living I can say I do enjoy a thrill.

I have skydived and bungee jumped since losing my legs which were incredible! Also I love a bit of Alpine skiing (just for fun though!) my heart is truly Nordic! (The correct answer!)

When I get a bit of free time I really enjoy surfing with friends. It’s hard work paddling out but you are rewarded by getting to ride some awesome waves!

You are the second Scottish Scott in biathlon now after Scott Dixon. Do you have any contact with the British Biathlon Union or any of the British biathletes who compete on the IBU?

Sadly not as much as I would like to. Our teams tend to be like passing ships in the night as the Para circuit and able bodied world move on their own schedules during a fast and furious winter season. I am still the new kid on the block and would welcome absolutely any opportunity to learn from the guys who compete on the IBU.

Does your rifle have a name?

I’ve heard a lot of this chat on the biathlon scene. I can say I have not named my rifle. But if you have any suggestions…fire away!! See what I did there!

Describe yourself in three words.

Enthusiastic, Passionate and absolutely determined to achieve what I set my sights on…..so many biathlon puns here!

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Vuokatti, Finland
Favourite shooting range: Finsterau,Germany
Favourite event: 15km
Favourite biathlete (IPC or IBU): Collin Cameron from Canada (IPC)
Lucky bib number: 6
Favourite training activity: I really enjoy long roller ski sessions. Often my dog Jura comes out and tries to keep up!
Nicest biathlete on the IPC tour: Trygve Larson from Norway . The smiling assassin. He is a fantastic biathlete and an all round good guy!!
Best thing about being a biathlete: I love seeing so much of the world and all the spectacular venues we train and compete in. I really like the variety of courses too. No two are the same.

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Finsterau 2017: Biathlon Sprint!

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Women’s Standing.Kononova,Liashenko,Bui

Saturday was the final day of action for the biathletes at the World Championships in Finsterau. The last day saw the biathlon sprint races take place and some familiar names on the podium.

In the women’s standing race Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko matched her gold medal from the Individual by winning the Sprint title shooting clean. Defending world champion Oleksandra Kononova took silver and Ukraine made it a 1-2-3 with Iryna Bui taking the bronze.

The men’s title in the standing went to Canada’s Mark Arendz. He won by just 2 seconds from another Ukrainian Ihor Reptyukh with France’s Benjamin Daviet getting bronze.

The Ukrainians enjoyed even more success in the visually impaired events as Oksana Shyshkova with guide Vitalii Kazakov beat Germany’s Clara Klug guided by Martin Hartl. Ukraine’s Olga Prylutska with guide Volodymyr Ivanov took another bronze to add to Ukraine’s massive medal haul.

Anatolii Kovalevskyi guided by Oleksandr Mukshyn added another gold in the men’s race. Belarus’ Vasili Shaptsiaboi and guide Mikhail Lebedzeu won the silver and France’s Anthony Chalencon with guide Simon Valverde got the bronze in what was his first ever podium in biathlon.

The USA’s Oksana Masters won the women’s sitting race despite missing 2 targets. Anja Wicker was second taking another medal for the hosts and Belarusian Lidzyia Hrafeyeva grabbed the bronze.

More gold for Ukraine came from Maksym Yarovyi who won ahead of teammate Taras Rad in the men’s sitting. Germany’s Martin Fleig added a bronze to his two gold medals meaning he won a medal in every biathlon race at his home World Championships.

It has been a really good World Championships with Ukraine as the dominant team. However it was also successful for the home team Germany which always helps to make the event enjoyable for the crowd.

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Finsterau 2017: Biathlon Individual!

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Men’s Standing podium. Arendz,Daviet,Ulset.

It’s Valentine’s Day so a great day to show your love for biathlon! It was also the second day of biathlon competition at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany.

Today was the Biathlon Individual races which means 4 shoots and 15km of skiing for the men and 12.5km for the women.

The first race of the day was the Men’s Sitting and was won by Germany’s Martin Fleig who now becomes double World Champion after winning gold in the Biathlon Middle. He shot 19/20 to beat the Ukraine’s Taras Rad into second place. Norway’s Tryvge Larsen took bronze.

The Women’s sitting race was also won by a German. Anja Wicker repeated Fleig’s shooting score of 19/20 to win her first gold here in Finsterau. Silver went to Lidziya Hrafeyeva from Belarus and bronze was won by Oksana Masters from the USA.

The next races were the men’s and women’s standing events. The men’s race went to France’s Benjamin Daviet who shot 19/20. Mark Arendz from Canada shot the same score to grab the silver medal to add to his gold from the biathlon Middle. Third went to Norway’s Nil-Erik Ulset who missed 2 targets.

There was a big surprise in the women’s standing when Liudmyla Liashenko won the gold medal. The Ukranian missed just 1 target to secure gold. Normally it is her teammate Oleksandra Kononova who wins this race but she finished last missing 9 targets. The silver medal went to Japan with Momoko Dekijima getting her first medal here in Finsterau and bronze went to Iryna Bui of Ukraine.

The final races were the visually impaired races where the biathetes require a guide to help them ski around the course and an acoustic system to help them shoot.

The men’s race was won by Vasili Shaptsiaboi with his guide Dzmitry Budzilovich from Belarus. He missed just 1 target to finish ahead of silver medal winners Anatolii Kovalevskyi and guide Oleksandr Mukshyn from Ukraine. Bronze went to their teammates Vitaliy Lukyanenko and guide Ivan Marrchshak.

The women’s race meant yet another gold medal for the Ukrainian team with Oksana Shyshkova and guide Vitalii Kazakov winning after shooting the perfect 20/20. Silver went to the home nation with Clara Klug and guide Martin Hartl and bronze went to another Ukrainian pair Olga Prylutska and guide Volodymyr Ivanov.

The final biathlon race, the Sprint, takes place on the 18th of February.

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Finsterau 2017: Biathlon Middle

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The German medallists

The IPC Biathlon World Championships got underway in Finsterau, Germany on Saturday. There were six biathlon races across three categories; sitting, standing and visually impaired.

The first races of the Championship were in the the middle distance biathlon which is 6km in distance with 4 shoots.

Home favourite Martin Fleig made it a great start for the German team by winning his first world title in the men’s sitting race. He only missed 1 shot to finish ahead of Ukraine´s Taras Rad who took silver and South Korea´s Eui Hyun who won the bronze.

In the women’s sitting race Lidziya Hrafeyeva from Belarus won a tough race beating two Germans to win the gold medal. Anja Wicker won the silver and Andrea Eskau took bronze making it 3 medals for the home team in the sitting races.

Canada´s Mark Arendz won the gold medal in the men’s standing, shooting clean to claim his second career world title. France´s Benjamin Daviet was second to get the silver medal and Ukraine´s reigning Paralympic champion Grygorii Vovchynskyi finished third to take bronze.

In the women´s standing, Ukraine´s Oleksandra Kononova won the gold medal continuing her domination of this event. Teammate Lyudmila Liashenko took the silver medal and Japan´s Yurika Abe got the bronze.

In the visually impaired races the Ukraine had a great day. The men´s visually impaired went to Iurii Utkin and guide Ruslan Perekhoda. Silver went to their teammates Anatolii Kovalevskyi and guide Oleksandr Mukshyn, while Dmytro Suiarko and guide Vasyl Potapenko made it a clean sweep of the podium for Ukraine taking the bronze medal.

In the women´s visually impaired race Ukraine´s Olga Prylutska and guide Volodymyr Ivanov won the gold medal and her teammate Oksana Shyshkova and guide Vitalii Kazakov took silver. Germany´s Clara Klug and guide Martin Hartl managed to break the Ukrainian dominance by getting the bronze medal and made it a great opening day of competition for the hosts.

The next biathlon races are on Tuesday.

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Mark Arendz : The Interview!

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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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