Tag Archives: Ramsau

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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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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Karin Oberhofer: The Interview!

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Karin Oberhofer is an Italian biathlete who was born on the 3rd of November 1985 in Brixen. She made her international debut in 2005 and her best result to date on the World Cup is second place from the Sprint race in Hochfilzen 2014. She has an World Championship bronze medal from the Mass Start in Kontiolahti 2015 and also won bronze in the relay there. She has another bronze medal in the Mixed Relay from the Sochi Olympics.

Like her Facebook Page: Karin Oberhofer (sportsperson)
Check out her website: http://www.karinoberhofer.com/en/

Why did you become a biathlete?

In the beginning I liked cross country skiing and I decided to go the Sport Oberschulzentrum in Mals to do it. When I was there in Mals I was at school with some biathletes and thought I would like to try to do it. I have loved this sport since the beginning and it became my big passion.

How do you assess last season? Were you happy with it or a little disappointed that you didn’t get an individual podium?

Last season was quite strange for me for many reasons. Anyway I know that I did my best as always. All the athletes would like to reach the podium but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out as we would like. Even if I didn’t reach the individual podium I won the relay in Hochfilzen with my team and it was absolutely terrific!!!

You won the relay in Hochfilzen last season. Can you describe your leg and how it felt at the end when you won? Are you happy the World Championships are in Hochfilzen?

As I mentioned before, it was extraordinary! I will remember that victory forever. I don’t want to comment only on my leg: all four of us had a great race. I guess that a victory like that in the relay is an huge result also for all our coaches that do an excellent job every day. We were all very satisfied and happy.

Regarding the World Champs in Hochfilzen, I think it will be a great event. But every day is different, especially in biathlon, and if you mean that we will have more chance because we won there last season… no, no more chance than the others!!!

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

I have already done a lot of training together with the Italian World Cup Team. Now we are in Ramsau (AUT) for the first training on snow and then, before the start of competitions, we will go to Antholz for some days, Senales and finally to Norway. But you know my training for winter season 16/17 started in the second week of May, every day with no vacation, no weekends except for a couple of days in September. A lot of training with the national team in different venues but also a lot of “hard working days” in my beautiful area: Sud Tirol.

What are your goals for this season?

I would like to be healthy for all the season in order to be constant in my results. My big goal is to improve my performance and myself but also to enjoy my beautiful job: both in skiing and in shooting. All the time my goal is to do my best and improve myself, to reach better results in my body, to touch the limit and to move this limit every season a bit further!

You have an Olympic bronze medal from Sochi in the Mixed Relay and a World Championship bronze medal in the Women’s Relay. Why do you think Italy is now so good at relays?

Because we are a great group and we have worked very hard together every day for some years. Together we grow as athletes thanks to the great support of all our staff.

What kind of food do you eat when you are training?

First of all I like eating healthy! I love good food and I take into consideration a lot the quality of the food. I like to try new food and also to cook new dishes.

I eat all kinds of food and I also have a couple of great food producers from my area that support and supply me with their healthy products all year long: Bakery Profanter and Kiku Apples.

I spend a lot of days away from home but anyway I have always with me, even during the winter season, some typical crispy bread (schüttelbrot) and fresh apple juice. It’s a small part of my kitchen that I bring with me always and I feel like I’m at home 😉

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

Sincerely.. no. I like to change and, as I mentioned before every day is different. I don’t have a special feeling with one specific venue. There are a lot of great places and every venue has something special.

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

I appreciate a lot of biathletes but I can’t say that I have one favourite in particular.

I have great respect for the biathletes that, even after great success and satisfaction, “stay on the ground” and continue to consider that the small things are important and don’t look down on you from the top.

Does your rifle have a name?

After your question, yes 😉 I have just given a name to my rifle: Joy! : )))

Describe yourself in three words.

Natural – Persistent – crazy 😉

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own):NORWAY
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): MINE 😉
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): SWITZERLAND
Favourite shooting range: NONE
Lucky bib number: 13 (from Mass Start of Kontiolahti 2015)
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: BOE BROTHERS
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: I think there are many nice biathletes on the World Cup.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Biathlon is like life, up and down but you have to do your best always and never give up. You don’t know how it will go but this is biathlon and this is what I like!

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Hungary for biathlon!

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What’s the one thing I love more than biathlon? Biathlon fans of course! Finding people with the same kind of passion for a sport as you is great and if they come from all different countries and cultures so much the better. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are the same people who read my blog! Honestly!;-)

Hungary might not be the first country you would associate with biathlon but it is there that a group of guys got together via their shared love of biathlon and created (the imaginatively titled!) Biathlon Fans Hungary.

It was through the medium of the internet (useful thing that internet!) that 5 guys from all around Hungary met on forums and community pages to share their passion for biathlon in a country which is dominated by football, handball, water polo,volleyball and other non-winter sports. András, Ákos, Sanyi, Szilveszter and Dani had never even been to a race before when they first started communicating.

That was all about to change however when the intrepid Dani decided to go to his first race in Nove Mesto to watch a World Cup event. Inspired by their friend, András, Sanyi and Szilveszter went to the World Championships in Ruhpolding to watch their favourite, Magdalena Neuner, at least once before she retired. That was when they decided as a group that they should go to last season’s World Championships in Nove Mesto and what a time they had!

Not content with just watching the events by day they also had a plan for how to fill their evenings as well! Already an international fan club after David and Antoine joined from France they made even more friends by organising parties and inviting many people from the stadium to join them which eventually included some of the biathletes! They now have an official t-shirt and also their own blog which I highly recommend and they are the first official IBU registered fan club from Hungary. So bereft of biathlon this summer they organised a tour and visited amongst other places Obertilliach,Ramsau and Pokljuka to meet and interview some biathletes during their summer training. That’s dedication for you!

What makes these guys special is that they support everyone in biathlon. I imagine like any fan they have their favourites but it doesn’t stop them encouraging and shouting for all the biathletes. Like me they take an interest in everyone who takes part from Fourcade and Berger at the top to less well known biathletes from non traditional winter sports countries as you can see from their great interviews on their blog. I don’t know what their plans are for this season but if you see a bunch of friendly faces in red t-shirts making a lot of noise at any of the World Cup rounds this season be sure and say hello. I am sure they would love to meet anyone who is as Hungary for biathlon as they are!

Well done guys! Keep up the amazing support and those great interviews!

Read the blog: http://biathlonfanshungary.blogspot.co.uk/
And join their Facebook page!

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