Tag Archives: Paralympic 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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Electric Cable!

ipc soule

This year’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic World Championships took place in Cable, USA from the 23rd of January until the 1st of February. Cable is a town in Bayfield County, Wisconsin and is the starting point of the American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing race. Wisconsin is famous for it’s cheese and in a genius move by the organisers all the medallists received cheese shaped like Wisconsin along with their medals. Not that any of the biathletes need extra motivation but if they did the cheese would do it! The championships have been held in America twice before but this was the first time in Cable. They began with the opening ceremony on the 23rd of January but racing got underway properly on the 24th with the first of the biathlon disciplines.

The Sprint race was the first challenge for the biathletes. This means a 6km race for the women and 7.5km race for the men. We got underway with the sitting races and the men went first followed by the women. The first race gave us a surprise as a Russian didn’t win! It was in fact Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi who shot clear and took the first gold medal of the Championships. Also shooting clear and giving the home crowd something to shout about was America’s Andrew Soule. They were followed home in third by Alexey Bychenok of Russia. Surprisingly Russia’s Roman Petushkov who won 6 gold medals in Sochi could only finish 13th. In the women’s race it was a Russian one-two with Nadezhda Fedorova taking gold and Marta Zaynullina silver. In third was Olympic gold medalist Andrea Eksau of Germany.

The standing races came next and it was back to normal programming with a Russian gold medal from Vladislav Lekomtcev who beat France’s Benjamin Daviet into silver and Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset into bronze. In the women’s race the on form Oleksandra Kononova from the Ukraine won gold and Liudmyia Liashenko made it a double success for Ukraine by taking silver ahead of Maija Jarvela of Finland who won the bronze.

The last races of the day saw the Visually Impaired biathletes take to the course with their guides. Russia were again on top of the podium with Nikolay Polukhin/Andrey Tokarev winning the men’s race and Iuliia Budaleeva/Tatiana Maltseva winning the women’s race. The men’s podium was completed by Anatolii Kovalevski/O Mukshyn of the Ukraine and the other Russian pair Vladimir Udaltcov/ Ruslan Bogachev who won silver and bronze respectively. Silver in the women’s race went to Oksana Shyshkova/Lada Nesterenko of the Ukraine and Germany got their second bronze of the day from Vivian Hosch/F Schillinger.

On Tuesday the biathlon Middle distances races took place for all categories. The distance was 10km for the women and 12.5km for the men. In the men’s race we had a Russian winner but not the one you might have expected. Grigory Murygin took gold and Alexey Bychenok improved his Sprint position by 1 place to take silver with Germany’s Martin Fleig in third. In the women’s race it was a clean sweep for Russian with Maria Iovleva winning gold, Irina Guliaeva silver and Marta Zaynullina bronze.

In the standing race Lekomtcev made it double gold for himself winning ahead of Ulset who got silver to add to his Sprint bronze and Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh who got his first medal in third. The women’s race was another clean sweep but this time by the Ukraine. Kononova and Liashenko finished in the same positions as the Sprint race in gold and silver and their teammate Iryna Bui joined them on the podium by coming in third.

In the VI the men’s race went to Polukhin/Tokarev who repeated their Sprint victory. Silver went to another Russian pair Stanislav Chokhlaev/E Fatkhullin and bronze to guess who more Russians Udaltcov/Bogachev. For the women Budaleeva/Maltseva took their second biathlon gold followed by Shyshkova/Nesterenko who took their second silver and in third place was Russian pair Elena Remizova/Maksim Priogov.

Friday saw the final biathlon races of the Championships and it was the turn of the Long distance. Long translates into 12.5km for the women and 15km for the men. By now you will have realised that Russia are pretty good at Para-biathlon and again swept the podium in the women’s sitting event. This time is was Zaynullina with gold, Konovalova with silver and Kocherova with bronze. In the men’s event home boy Andy Soule prevented another Russian clean sweep by taking his second biathlon silver. Russian’s Bychenok and Murygin took gold and bronze.

In the women’s standing Oleksandra Kononova made it an incredible 3 out of 3 gold in biathlon and overall won 6 golds including her cross country medals. An outstanding performance from a quite brilliant athlete. Her teammate Liashenko must be sick of her though as she again lost out on the win but gained another silver medal. Finland’s Jarvela got her second medal getting the bronze. The men’s race excitingly had three different nationalities on the podium. Reptyukh took gold, Lekomtcev silver and Daviet bronze.

The final events were the VI and surprise surprise Polukhin/Tokarev got their third gold and completed an excellent championships for the Russian and his guide. Chokhlaev/Fatkhullin came in second and Iurii Utkin/ Vitalii Kazakov of the Ukraine in third. As for the women it was more gold for Russia in the shape of Budaleeva/Maltseva,more silver for Russia from Remizova/Pirogov and more medals for the Ukraine too from Olga Prylutska/ Borys Babar.

What a great World Championships we had! Some incredible performances especially by the unbeaten Oleksandra Kononova and Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev. The Russian’s and Ukrainians dominated proceeding as expected but there were some who managed to break their domination. Andy Soule had a dream home championships getting 2 silver medals, Benjamin Daviet also takes home 2 medals and Maija Jarvela got on the podium twice. I really hope all these guys like cheese as they have a lot of it to eat. It has been an historic IPC World Championships in Wisconsin with some amazing races and great individual performances. It really was an Electric Cable!

There were also cross country races and you can find full results for cross country and biathlon here:
http://www.paralympic.org/nordic-skiing/calendar-results

For more information about para-nordic sports see:
http://www.paralympic.org/
You can follow IPC Nordic Skiing on Twitter: @IPCNordic

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Arendz: Making his Mark!

Arendz-

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Para-biathlon it is exactly the same as biathlon! ( It’s just that the para-biathletes are much better!!) They get a little bit of assistance to help them compete but essentially the format and competition is the same. One of the top para-biathletes is Canada’s Mark Arendz. He will be competing in the up-coming Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2 days time. (For more info on the games see my article Of Para-mount Importance.)

Mark was born on Prince Edward Island on the 3rd of March 1990. At the age of seven he was involved in a farming accident and had to have his left arm amputated just above the elbow. Having already showed a keen interest in sports it did not deter him and he started to compete in cross country skiing with the aid of a ski prosthetic.

To this day he still competes as a cross country skier but after watching in the biathlon in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics he decided to take it up too.A wise decision! Mark competes in the standing races in para-biathlon and made his Olympic debut at home in Vancouver 2010, but he really made a big step up in his biathlon career in 2011 when he finished second overall in the IPC Biathlon World Cup. He repeated that feat the next year again finishing second but finally won the overall title in 2013 taking the Chrystal Globe for the first time.

That was an amazing year for Mark as he won gold in the Sprint event at the IPC World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden and also two bronze medals in the Individual and the Biathlon Middle (12.5km). He ended the year in great form too when he took part in the IPC World Cup round in his adopted home town of Canmore. He finished second in the men’s 15-kilometre para-biathlon standing race but was later promoted to first when officials disqualified Russian winner Vladislav Lekomtchev for having his coach on the range providing instructions. In the same competition he was sixth in the Short and second in the Middle distance races.

So now it’s on to Sochi for Mark and the rest of the Paralympians. He will be competing in both cross country and biathlon. It will be tough for Mark in Sochi as the Russians have an exceptionally strong biathlon team and of course the full support of the home crowd. That being said he is still one of the favourites to win medals in all of the biathlon events so watch out for Arendz making his Mark in Sochi!

You can follow Mark on Twitter.

Mark’s website:
http://www.markarendz.com/

For more info see: http://www.paralympic.org/Events/Sochi2014

All the biathlon races take place on the 8th,11th and 14th March.
See here for more details:
http://www.sochi2014.com/en

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