Tag Archives: PyeongChang Paralympic Games 2018

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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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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Martin Fleig: The Interview!

Martin Fleig is a German para biathlete who competes in the sitting category. In February he won double gold in biathlon at his home World Championships in Finsterau. His victories in the 12.5km middle distance and the 15km Individual were were followed with bronze in the 7.5km Sprint event. He also won bronze in the 15km cross country race. He won the biathlon Overall World Cup last season and is the current world number one. The 28-year-old was born with spina bifida and fluid on the brain.

Like his Facebook Page: Martin Fleig
Check out his website: http://www.martin-fleig.de/

Why did you become a biathlete?

I started with cross country skiing. One day, I guess I was 14 years old or so, I tried biathlon. I really did not like it! A few years later I had the chance to get my own rifle, so I could shoot much more easily because the rifle fit me perfectly. My first competitions were not really good, but I found my motivation to go ahead with doing biathlon. And over the years the fun came too.

You became double World Champion in biathlon at your home Championships in Finsterau last season. Can you describe the feeling and what do you remember about the races?

It’s really difficult to describe. I guess I had a really good feeling before the first race started. I knew that I was in really good shape and the races at the World Cups before the Worlds were also very good for me. So I was able to start the Worlds with confidence. During the first race I often thought about my training at home at the Notschrei Nordic Center. I told myself all the time ‘you can do it, just do it like in your training’. I knew I just had to remember my shootings from the past and in my training before doing it clean. Honestly, at the 15k race I did not know about my comfortable situation by being the leader by almost 3 minutes. It was strange for me when I missed one shot because I was sure that my chance to take a medal was over. But after I finished the last shooting I heard the stadium commentator said something like‚ ‘Dont worry about your missed shot, Martin. You are still in the lead!’ That was really cool because I knew that I would be able to win a medal again.

You won both biathlon races at the World Cup round in PyeongChang. Do you like the tracks and range there? What are you goals for the Paralympic Games?

Oh yes, I really do like the tracks and also the place itself. About my goals, I am really not able to say something directly about that. Let us first start the new season and the first World Cup races and maybe then we could say a bit more about what we could expect at the PWG. All I can say now is, that I train really hard and do my best to be prepared for it! We also have to wait and see what the Russian guys will be able to do if they come back because we should not forget that those guys are the strongest skiers in the world!
(The Russian Team are currently banned by the IPC from all competitions following the McLaren Report into state sponsored doping at the Sochi Olympics.)

What have you been doing for summer training? Do you mostly train alone or with your teammates?

I have put my training into a new level. More hours overall than last year and some more technical training. We are doing a good mix of muscle and athletic training, skiing technique and also some other kinds of stamina training like handcycling, roller skiing or swimming. Most of the time I train with my Mother or alone. Twice a week I train with some teammates or with the head coach, Ralf Rombach or Michael Huhn.

Is your sit-ski custom made? Do you have the same one for roller skiing or do you need two? What is the most challenging thing for you in terms of skiing in the sit-ski?

Yes, it has been made by a firm called Rapp & Seifert – Sanitätshaus und Orthopädietechnik GmbH. A BIG thanks to those guys who make it possible for me to do my sport so successfully!!! For the upcoming season they have built me a new, much lighter sledge. So yes, now I have got two of them. To ski in the sitting position is very challenging in general. For me, the fast corners on a track are the most challenging ones.

Can you describe for my readers how you shoot from a sit-ski?

If I come to the shooting range, a coach has got my rifle in his hands and he chooses a shooting lane. Then I come to that lane, let myself fall down on my left side and the coach gives me the rifle and I can begin to shoot. After the shooting (5 targets), I get up by myself and go ahead with the next loop of 2,5km or 3km.

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?

Well, I really admire those who handle both kinds of summer and winter sports at this high level. For me, in my situation it is impossible to imagine doing so. But IF I think about which summer sport I would do, it would be wheelchair races I guess. But I am not really sure about that, it is just a thought.

What are your hobbies away from biathlon and cross country?

I love photography! I prefer to be outside, no matter if I do sport or something else. To be outside gives me a feeling of freedom. And if I go outside to take photos, I can really get my mind free from all around me. It makes me feel very satisfied. I mostly photograph things like insects, flowers or things in nature.

Does your rifle have a name?

Nope.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): France
Favourite track: Ruhpolding
Favourite biathlete (IPC or IBU): Vanessa Hinz, Simon Schempp
Favourite shooting range: Oberhof
Lucky bib number: 10
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Martin Fourcade
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Laura Dahlmeier
Best thing about being a biathlete: The ability to manage the difference between skiing and shooting.

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Keiichi Sato: The Interview!

Keiichi Sato is a Japanese para biathlete. He is also a cross-country skier and triathlete! He is a busy man but found time to do an interview for Biathlon23! He was born in Nagoya on the 14th of July 1979. Keiichi has a congenital impairment to his left hand due to hypoplasia which means he has doesn’t have the usual number of cells in that area. This means he competes in the standing category in biathlon. He has already competed in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Paralympics as well as at the Rio Summer Paralympic in 2016. This season he is hoping to win a medal closer to home in the PyeongChang Paralympics!

Follow him on Twitter: @KUROKANOUJI
Check out his website: satokeiichi.com

Why did you become a biathlete?

I was a cross-country skier at the beginning, but in Para-nordic both biathlon and cross-country ski competitions are held at the same time. I was interested when I saw the biathlon competition. I tried biathlon and fortunately it seems that the sense of shooting was good. That’s why I became a biathlete. And competitions in which different movements of static and dynamic are combined, combined with shooting and skiing is very rare in Japan. I also wanted that challenge.

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

I am satisfied with the results of last season. However I was disappointed that sometimes my shooting was not as good as I had hoped. I also made some mistakes in ski choice. So I missed the Top 3 .However my body was always in good shape last season.

Did you enjoy competing at home in Sapporo last season? Did your family and friends come to watch you?

Of course. A lot of Japanese people came to cheer for me. My friends and family, local people from Sapporo and from various other places. The rules in Japan surrounding firearms like rifles are very strict so I am very grateful for the first biathlon competition.

The Japanese nordic team is doing very well at the moment. Do you get help from your country in term of funding and support like coaching/physios/wax techs etc? How does it work?

Depending on the achievement level of the athlete, the support content will change. In my case, there is Nagahama the coach for skiing, Takisawa the coach for Biathlon and two other coaches. However I live in a place away from the coaches. It is difficult to work with triathlon training at the same time, but I keep in touch with them while training well.

A trainer will work with the whole Japanese team, but it is mostly in the winter ski season.

Therefore, in the summer, care of the body is done by myself which means visiting hospital to get the physical care from the orthopedic physiotherapist. The Japanese team wax men are very good. They will accompany us to the World Cup, World Championships and important training camps.

Financing depends on each athlete. In my case, I receive financial assistance from Japan, the sponsors of the Japanese team and most of my activity expenses are paid by my sponsors.

What have you been doing for summer training? What would you like to improve in your biathlon?

Triathlon, bicycle hill climbing, bicycle road racing, climbing Mount Fuji etc. This year I did a ski training camp in Australia’s Falls Creek for the first time in summer. I also participated in the Kangaroo Hoppet there.

In biathlon I would like to improve the accuracy of my shooting and to shoot faster and spend less time in the range. Regulation of the rifle is severe in Japan so it is difficult to do combination training so I have to do a lot of dry firing.

What are the main challenges for you competing in biathlon with the use of only one arm?

The main challenges are to place the rifle in a stable position on the spring. To check the positioning when entering the shooting range. Supporting the rifle with one arm, but making a position that can maintain a stable balance. When it’s windy it’s difficult to time the shooting correctly with one arm.

Are you excited about the up coming Paralympic Games?

I am really looking forward to it. If I can participate in Pyeongchang, it will be the third winter Paralympic Games for me‼

What are your goals for racing in PyeongChang?

First, to do my best in the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games. I want to be in the Top 3 for the 7.5k Sprint and the Individual 15km.

You also compete in para triathlon. Does that help with your biathlon?

It is very effective training. Especially the numerical value of oxygen maximum intake tends to be good. I can do three kinds of training at the same time – swimming,cycling and running. It is so much fun! I will not get bored!

You do cross-country (1 event), biathlon (2 events) and triathlon (3 events)! Are you looking for a sport where you can do 4?!! 😉 Where do you get the motivation from to do all these sports?

No! If I do another sport it would be cycling because the bike part is my strong point in triathlon!
Determination to achieve goals that I set out for myself is my motivation.
My motivation has lifted me through new experiences which made me feel like I had progressed.

Does your rifle have a name?

His name is WASABI.

Describe yourself in three words.

Versatile, stylish, I love a challenge!

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Norway
Favourite biathlete (IPC or IBU): Ole Einar Bjørndalen
Favourite track: ASAHIDAKE,Asahikawa,Hokkaido Japan
Favourite shooting range: NISHIOKA,Sapporo,Hokkaido,Japan
Lucky bib number: I don’t know…
Funniest biathlete on the World Cup: Maybe me(sometimes so many misses, sometimes I hit all the targets! hahaha..:)
Nicest biathlete on the World Cup: Gregoriy Vovchinskiy from Ukraine.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Wonderful journeys, mysterious food of the world, meeting beautiful women and good experiences.

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The Road to PyeongChang? Seriously?

Apparently there is something going on next year in February and March. Not sure what it is but maybe it’s one of those new reality TV shows about survival. People keep talking about the road to PyeongChang. I don’t know about you but the only road I know that goes to PyeongChang runs through North Korea so maybe I am right!

Of course not! It’s the Winter Olympics and Paralympics! If nuclear war hasn’t broken out by then the eyes of the biathlon world will turn to South Korea. There are other ‘so-called’ sports taking place too but none of interest to us! 😉

PyeongChang is a county in the Gwangwon province of South Korea. It is located in the Taebaek mountain region and is around 180km east of the capital Seoul. Happy 700 PyeongChang is the slogan of the area. The average height of the region is 700 metres above sea level and apparently this is the optimal elevation to live at. Expect lots of elderly spectators at the biathlon then.

The biathlon races will take place at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre which will also be used for sports such as cross country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. Or as I call them biathlon’s annoying little cousins! 😉

The arena has 4500 seats and room for 3000 people to stand giving an official capacity of 7500. The altitude difference for the tracks is from 749 to 796 metres. They weren’t joking about the height of the area!

There will be 11 biathlon events taking place. On the 10th of February is the Women’s Sprint followed by the Men’s Sprint on the 11th. Both Pursuit races take place on the 12th. The 14th and 15th are for the Women’s and Men’s Individuals respectively. The Mass Starts are on the 17th and 18th. The Relays are all at the end of the programme with the Mixed Relay on the 20th, the Women’s Relay on the 22nd and excitingly the Men’s Relay on the 23rd!!! An auspicious day indeed! 😉

The races will all be held in the evening local time which means if you are watching in Europe they will be on mid-morning or early afternoon when everyone is at work. If you are watching in North America they will be on very early morning when you are asleep! Great news!

Defending their title (because let’s face it no one remembers who won in Sochi!) will be Anastasiya Kuzmina and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen in the Sprints, Darya Domracheva and Martin Fourcade in the Pursuits and the Individuals and Domracheva and Emil Hegle Svendsen in the Mass Starts. Hoping to hang on to the Relay titles will be Norway in the Mixed Relay, Ukraine in the Women’s Relay and Russia in the Men’s Relay.

It should be a great Olympic Games and it will be followed in March from the 9th to the 18th by the Paralympics. There will be 18 biathlon events over 3 categories. Men and women compete in the visually impaired races, the standing races or the sitting races depending on their impairment.

They will race over 3 distances which are the short, middle and lndividual. The short distance is 6km for the women and 7.5 for the men. The middle distance is 10km or 12.5km and the Indvidual is 12.5km or 15km.

The champions from Sochi in the short distance for the women were Russia’a Mikhalina Lysova (VI), Alena Kaufman (standing) and Germany’s Andrea Eskau (sitting). For the men it was the Ukraine’s Vitaliy Lukyanenko (VI),Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtsev (standing) and Russia’s Roman Petushkov (sitting).

The middle distance gold medals were won by Lysova and Kaufman and Germany’s Anja Wicker in the sitting race. The men’s were won by Lukayenko, Russia’s Azat Karachurin and Petushkov. The Individual titles went to Russia’s Iuliia Budaleeva, Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova and Russia’s Svetlana Konovalova. Winning for the men were Russia’s Nikolai Polukhin, Ukraine’s Gyrgorii Vovchynskyi and Petushkov completeing his clean sweep in the sitting races.

At the time of writing it is unknown whether the Russian team will be allowed to compete in PyeongChang as they are currently banned after the McLaren Report findings. The decision will be made in September by the International Paralympic Committee and will be an important one as you can see where a lot of the medals tend to go!

There are less than six months to go before the Games get underway. The biathletes are already quite far along the road to PyeongChang. However I would recommend booking a flight. Seriously!!! 😉

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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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