Tag Archives: Ricco Gross

Herbert Cool: The Interview!

Herbert Cool is a former Dutch biathlete who was born in Rotterdam on the 9th of February 1985. He retired from biathlon in 2012, which was far too soon!, with a top finish of 50th in both the Sprint and Pursuit races at the 2008 World Championships in Oestersund. After retiring he began commentating on biathlon for Dutch Eurosport.

Follow Herbert on Twitter: @CoolHerbert

Why did you become a biathlete?

My father loves to go cross country skiing. As we have no snow in the Netherlands we used to spend our vacations in Germany and the Czech Republic. I got into the sport as well, enjoyed it, enjoyed racing against the local youth and sometimes even beating them. Age 18 I participated in the Youth Olympic Games in Bled, Slovenia. I came 9th in the Sprint which was great. We hardly ever trained on snow, only roller skiing and some shooting in a shooting range without a roller ski loop. This made me realize I had a talent for the sport and made me decide to pursue a professional career in biathlon. At age 19 I moved to the US to train with the US Junior team in Minnesota. A year after, I moved to Ruhpolding and stayed there for 6 years.

What are your best memories from your biathlon career?

For sure the first year in the US was the most fun. Obviously it is a great experience to live there on the whole, especially after finishing school. I got to see a lot of the country and was surprised about the large Nordic community it has, not to mention the beautiful cross country tracks. Also, the team was great. Just a bunch of young people wanting to make it in a sport that wasn’t normal in the country they came from. I guess we shared this experience, even though our countries were so far apart. We shared the troubles with funding, we shared having to travel away from your own country to be able to do what you love. And we had a great coach, Vladimir Cervenka, who is still coaching the US Juniors in Minnesota. Of course there were many great memories after that year, but things became a bit more serious, more like a job.

How did you become a commentator for Eurosport and how long have you been doing it?

Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for the Vancouver Olympics. The Dutch Olympic Association wants biathletes to be top 8 in the world, which obviously is a requirement similar to countries like Germany or Norway. However, there is hardly any funding and no talent development whatsoever. I really hope this will change and I am putting energy into this myself, but for now it is unrealistic to expect any talent from the Netherlands (nor is it realistic to expect youth to become interested in the sport, there simply are no facilities). Eurosport gave me a call; whether I would be interested in joining their biathlon commentator during the Olympics. I did, and it was a lot of fun. After I decided to quit in 2012 I pretty much became their new biathlon commentator. I still enjoy it a lot, and nowadays do some other sports as well as some presenting in front of the camera. For example during the 2018 Olympics. It’s a lot of fun and it enables me to stay on top of the sport that I love.

Did you find the transition from biathlete to commentator difficult? Was it harder or easier than you thought? Do you ever run out of things to say? 😉

I think it was the fact that I could become the biathlon commentator at Eurosport that helped me in the transition. You have to understand, I am a city boy. I was born and raised in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time. So living in Ruhpolding was about as far away from living in the city as possible. Although I often miss the beautiful nature in the Alps (and the snow, obviously) I also really wanted to go back to Rotterdam. And I’m not just a commentator, I also own a sports management agency. We are into sports marketing, event management and athlete management. For example, this year we will bring a large group of Dutch biathlon fans to the World Team Challenge in Gelsenkirchen for the first year. You’d be surprised how many Dutch people love watching biathlon. When it comes to winter sports, speed skating is obviously the number 1 by far, but I would say biathlon is the second most popular winter sport on television here!
(Definitely not running out of things to say 😉 )

How much and what kind of research do you do before the races?

Honestly, I hardly do any research. I simply love the sport so much that I read and see everything no matter what. Before a race, I obviously do my preparation work, but that doesn’t take a lot of time this way.

Do you have some favourite/memorable races or moments that you have commentated on? Why were they special?

My relationship with the US team runs like a red line through my career. First I moved to Minnesota to train with the US Juniors. After that I moved to Ruhpolding where I was fortunate enough to have Ricco Gross coach me and help me a lot. He helped me connect to the US World Cup team -they waxed his ski’s during that time- and I ended up going with them in some of their training camps as well as travelling with them throughout the winter. A great setup for which I am still very grateful to both Ricco Gross, Bernd Eisenbichler, their high performance director and the team as a whole. It was during the time Tim Burke did very well, he even led the World Cup total score during Christmas, and I roomed up with them and learned a lot. So to answer the question, during the Hochfilzen World Champs there was the epic individual race men’s race. Moravec was in the lead, Lowell Bailey started really late. He shot well, and the finish loop was so intense. I think I screamed during my commentary and for sure I wasn’t very objective, but I didn’t care. It was such a great win for Lowell and I felt a lot of joy, especially seeing all of the wax techs and coaches celebrating afterwards. You know how hard they all work for it and how much effort goes in behind the scenes.

Is biathlon popular in The Netherlands? Can you tell us something about the current biathletes from the Netherlands.

It’s a difficult subject at the moment. The Dutch ski federation has chosen not to invest in talent development. One of the reasons is that the Dutch Olympic Association will only send a biathlete to the Olympics if he or she is around top 8 in the world. This is almost impossible to achieve in general, but especially with no funding, no facilities (no snow) and, very important, no athletes who are already on a World Cup level. You need to train with athletes who are at least as good as you on a daily basis. A good example is Chardine Sloof; she is a talented biathlete who got introduced to the sport because she lives in Sweden. She became a Junior World Champion for the Netherlands, which is crazy. Luck hardly has any influence on the sport of biathlon, if you become Junior World Champion you are talented. Period. After that she struggled with some physical issues and the funding stopped. She decided to switch to the Swedish team. A good decision, because she is surrounded by great athletes, the right culture and great facilities as well. She achieved 3 top 15 results during the Oberhof World Cup 2 seasons ago, really great stuff. I hope we will see more of her in the upcoming season.

Do you have any predictions for the up coming season? Anyone we should be looking out for to do well?

As always after an Olympic season we saw some big names quit. Of course we will miss Domracheva for example. She has one of the best techniques on the women’s side and is of great added value to the exposure of biathlon due to her personality. On a personal note I will miss Bjoerndalen, because he was my idol when I was a biathlete myself. I think Johannes Thingnes Boe will again be a little bit better and more solid this time, although he did admit to not training as much as he should have done in spring. But it will be interesting to see whether Fourcade can take another overall World Cup. I think it’s Boe’s time now. And the Swedes will be strong. They have the momentum after their successful Olympics. Of course there is a big difference between having nothing to lose and being one of the favourites, so this will be a role they will have to get used to. On the women’s side I think Dahlmeier will be very strong, if she stays healthy on her way to December. But I’m afraid that if she wins a lot, she will quit after this winter, which would be a big loss to the sport. I would also keep an eye on Lisa Vittozzi, she made big steps last season and is still very young.

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

I loved Östersund. Great atmosphere downtown, great energy on the whole and tracks that suited me. Long uphills that you really had to dig into. Antholz is everybody’s favorite, not only because of the great food and kind people. I always joke during my commentary that they somehow always seem to have a lot of snow, yet the sun is always shining!

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

Bjoerndalen, because he made biathlon into the sport it is today. He pulled it out of cross country skiing’s shadow. His technique was perfection. Someone who also has great balance and style on ski’s is Simon Fourcade, I love watching him ski. When it comes to fighting spirit you have to mention Kaisa Makarainen. Such a great athlete, a fierce competitor on the tracks and a great person once she crosses the finish line.

Did your rifle have a name?

Nope.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ambitious, passionate, calm.

Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Right now: Belgium!
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Shipulin’s carved rifle looks great.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): Not sure which year, and a bit of a different sport, but I loved the suit the Norwegian cross country team had in the last seasons Bjorn Daehlie was racing.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Being active in a worldwide sport that is still small enough to be a small community, and the closeness to nature.
Best thing about being a commentator: Sharing what you love with viewers who really discover your sport -and how great it is. Because biathlon wasn’t really known in the Netherlands, viewers can ask me question through Twitter during the race. This works out great and gives me the chance to bring the sport closer to the Dutch audience.

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Spring Things 2018!

Spring was depressing, wasn’t it! It started off with the raid at IBU HQ in Salzburg. The President of the IBU Anders Besseburg and the General Secretary Nicole Resch are both under investigation by the Austrian police for covering up positive doping samples from Russian biathletes. At the time of writing no charges have been brought against either party but both stepped down from their positions while the investigation is on going. Both deny any wrong doing.

Then we had all the retirements to deal with! The legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen finally called it a day although I think he made the decision at rifle point as he seemed a bit reluctant to retire! We won’t get rid off him though, he will be coaching or commentating next season I am sure. 🙂

It was not a surprise when his teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen also gave up the sport. He made no secret of the fact that he would go after the Olympics. I know what you are thinking – whose hair will I admire now? Well I take a keen interest in Sebastian Samuelsson’s coiffure but actually I have found someone with even better hair than Emil! Step forward German para- biathlete Steffen Lehmker! 🙂

Jean Guillaume Beatrix has gone too. Very sad to see a biathlon23 interviewee finish their career mainly because it is not allowed! Americans Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey also hung up their rifles along with Russell Currier leaving a lot of space to fill on the men’s team. Jaroslav Soukup and Daniel Mesotitsch retired too. Florian Graf quit and in a bit of a shock so did Canada’s Macx Davies! No!

On the women’s side we said goodbye to a lot of mums! Marie Dorin Habert, Karin Oberhofer and Weronika Nowakowska all stopped racing. All three women have young children so that may have come into their decisions. Then at the end of June Darya Domracheva decided that she would also retire wanting to focus on her child too. This followed the announcement from Nadezhda Skardino at the start of June that she was ending her career thus decimating the Belarus Olympic gold medal Relay team!

Eva Tofalvi, Hilde Fenne, Coline Varcin and Olga Podchufarova also gave up biathlon. And we lost another biathlon23 interviewee in Julia Ransom. 😦

Miriam Goessner has changed sports to go to cross country skiing. Her back problems meant she had trouble carrying the rifle and her aim meant she had trouble hitting the targets! 😉 Good luck Miri!

Gabriela Koukalova will not race again this season and possibly not ever again. She seems to have fallen out of love with biathlon! How could she?!! She also has an autobiography out which has already caused a bit of controversy. Think the fame may have gone to her head a bit! 😉

In other news Mario Dolder got married and Selina Gasparin is pregnant with her second child in exciting times for the Swiss. Not with each other though just to be clear!

Jakov Fak got married too and Ondrej Moravec had a little boy called Ondrej. Again not with each other!

Nadezhda Pisareva also married Russian ski technician Andrey Shatokin. Johannes Boe will be married on the 30th of June and Marte Olsbu and Mari Laukkanen will also get married this summer. You guessed it – not to each other! 😉

My postman assures me that he didn’t lose my wedding invitations so I have no idea what has happened to them!!!

In less exciting news Simon Schempp broke his shoulder in a bike accident and Dzinara Alimbakava had surgery on her shoulder. Florent Claude had a operation for compartment syndrome in his shins and Anton Shipulin has mononucleosis.

Finally we had the coaching merry-go-round! I don’t think so many changes have been made in the Spring before! Take a deep breath, possibly grab a snack and a drink – follow this if you can!

USA:
The Americans lost both their coaches this Spring. The women’s coach Jonne Kähkönen went back to the Finnish women’s team and the men’s coach Jonas Johansson went back to Sweden as Development Coach. They were replaced by Michael Greis (Men) and Armin Auchentaller (Women). They now have Tim Burke as athlete development manager. He didn’t stay away for long, did he!!!

France:
The French team made big changes with the appointments of Vincent Vittoz, a former cross-country skier, and Patrick Favre from the Italian team taking over as the men’s coaches. Coaching the French women will be Fredric Jean and Vincent Porret.

Norway:
The coaches for the women’s team have changed. Patrick Oberegger moves from the Italian team and ex-cross country skier Sverre Kaas will take care of the skiing.

Germany:
Germany have gone for youth with their new coaches all in their 30’s. Mark Kirchner is now head of the German men and women with Gerald Honig as German national shooting coach. Kristian Mehringer is the Senior Women’s coach with Florian Steirer as his assistant. Isidor Scheurl is the new men’s assistant coach.

Poland:
Nadija Belova is the new Polish women’s head coach taking over from Tobias Torgersen.

Italy:
Andreas Zingerle is the new World Cup and Elite Team coach. He will be assisted by Andrea Zattoni while Klaus Hoellrigl and Nicola Pozzi will coach the A team. Olympic gold medallist in shooting without skiing (apparently that’s a thing!) Niccolò Campriani will be shooting coach for all the Italian biathletes.

Russia:

New RBU president Vladimir Drachev has appointed Anatoly Khovantsev as the new head coach. He will take the men’s team with Sergei Idinov assisting him. Vitaly Noritsyn is the women’s coach with assistant Sergei Bashkirov.

Czech Republic:
Norwegian Egil Gjelland is the new coach of the women’s team. The former coach of Norway’s men will be joined by Jiří Holubec and Tomáš Kašpar. Zdeněk Vitek moves from the women’s team to coach the men with another Norwegian Anders Bratli assisting him as well as Aleš Ligaun.

Austria:
The Austrian men’s team will be coached by Ricco Gross after he left his job with the Russian men’s team.

Ukraine:
Andrei Prokunin will take over as the new Women’s Coach for Ukraine. Uros Velepec will most likely return to coach Slovenia.

Switzerland:
The new women’s head coach is Austrian Sandra Flunger who happens to be Simon Eder’s cousin!

If you have made it this far I congratulate you and encourage you to consider climbing Everest – it’s a similar feat! 😉

I imagine I have forgotten some retirements, events or coaching changes but there is a lot going on!


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J.J Hensley: The Interview!

BANG BANG BANG BANG! That’s right I am the crucial 4th shot on U.S author J.J Hensley’s 5 shots blog tour. (It’s usually the 1st or 5th shot that is crucial in biathlon but from now on it’s the 4th!). It may surprise you to hear that biathlon has been used as the basis of a crime fiction novel, but it has! Hensley has wisely decided that biathlon would be a good backdrop for his latest novel Bolt Action Remedy. It is his 4th novel and obviously his best as it has biathlon in it! J.J is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service which is the primary reason for me saying nice things about his book 😉 I got the chance to read it before it is released on the 2nd of October and had a chat with him about it.

http://www.hensley-books.com
Blog – Steel City Intrigue https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
Twitter: @JJHensleyauthor


The Review:
Set in a wintery Pennsylvania, a 43 year-old veteran is tasked with finding the murderer of businessman Peter Lanskard. I know what you are thinking but it’s not Ole Einar Bjoerndalen! Although he could probably solves crime too if he wanted! It’s actually ex-cop Trevor Galloway who has to tackle a crime that has been unsolved for over a year and is as tricky as trying to pick the winner of the Women’s Overall World Cup.

The circumstances of the shooting mean that only someone who can shoot well and ski fast could have done it. Do we know anyone who can do that? Of course! The first person you would suspect is a biathlete! They all have rifles and some of them look pretty murderous when they miss targets on the final standing shoot.

Unluckily for Galloway there is a biathlon camp in the area full of suspects and so just like Martin Fourcade in a Pursuit race the killer is not easy to catch. The owner of the biathlon camp comes under suspicion not only for murder but also for fictitiously coming 4th in the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. Ricco Gross will not be pleased about that! Not only did he miss the podium in that race but now a fictional biathlete has stolen his result.

Galloway’s already difficult task is made harder by demons from his former job as a policeman who specialized in narcotics. He comes across a bit like a biathlete in the Individual race. He tries to handle everything all on his own, he occasionally finds himself in the middle of the woods, there is shooting involved and you don’t know what’s going on right up until the end!

In summary if you like biathlon and crime thrillers then this is the book for you. I could say ‘give it shot’, or ‘it hits the target’ but I don’t do biathlon puns!!! 😉 It would be perfect for a flight – say if you are going somewhere far away ….like PyeongChang! 😉

The Interview:
How did you discover biathlon and why do you like it?

While I was an agent with the U.S. Secret Service, I worked protective operations at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was there for a couple of months, so I was exposed to a great number of sports not typically popular in the United States. I loved the combination of endurance and skill demonstrated by biathletes and that always stuck with me. I have so much admiration for what those athletes can do.

Why did you decide to base your book around biathlon?

My first novel, Resolve, was set against the backdrop of a marathon. Ever since writing that book, I’ve wanted to write another mystery that somehow involved an endurance sport. I weighed doing something with triathlons and cycling, but nothing seemed to work. Then it finally dawned on me. If I was going to write a murder mystery tied to an endurance sport, then use one in which everyone already has a gun! Biathlon was the perfect fit and using it gives me a chance to introduce the sport to many of my readers.

Why did you choose Bolt Action Remedy as the title? Did you consider any others before you settled on that like ‘Death by Biathlon’ or ‘Catch point 22’?!! 😉

Titles come to me in odd ways. I know many authors who struggle with titles even after finishing a manuscript. As soon as I started writing the manuscript, I decided on Bolt Action Remedy. I like strong titles that convey decisiveness and what is more decisive than solving a problem with a rifle?

Tell us a bit about the book. If you are a fan of biathlon why should you read it?

I can pretty much guarantee it will be one of the top-selling biathlon-related mysteries in 2017. And probably 2018. Possibly 2019 too. As far as I can tell, the market I am entering is fairly small.
The main focus of the book is not biathlon, so I think it will be enjoyable to those who know the sport and others who cannot even ski (like me). If you are a die-hard fan of biathlon then I think you will enjoy how the skills demonstrated on the course are integrated into the story. The novel starts with the murder of a prominent businessman and the crime had to have been committed by someone extremely talented in two areas: skiing and shooting. When former narcotics detective Trevor Galloway discovers the crime scene is adjacent to a biathlon training facility, his suspect list gets real long, real fast.

The main character is an ex-cop who likes to run. You are an ex-cop who likes to run. Where on earth did you get the inspiration for Trevor Galloway? Do you put any of yourself into your characters or do you use former colleagues or criminals you have arrested?

I try to put myself in the shoes of most of my characters, but I certainly relate to this protagonist more than with some of my previous creations. I don’t share Galloway’s addiction issues, but we have somewhat similar backgrounds and we both are often perceived as extremely stoic. In fact, the nickname he carries throughout the novel – the Tin Man – comes from my days of training federal investigators. Some students thought I came across so serious and unforgiving during various practical exercises, they called me the Tin Man.
I always work in some bits and pieces from real life when writing a book. Some of the character names I have used over the years Kevin Shand, Mike Hartz, and Tina Lambert, to name a few, are all variations of people I have known throughout my life. I am AWFUL at making up character names, so if we were ever friends or coworkers then there is a decent chance you will end up in a book. It is entirely possible I might kill you, but that is just the way it goes.

Did you do a lot of research about biathlon for the book? Where did you get your information?

In addition to conducting a lot of research online, I corresponded with biathlete Curt Schreiner who competed for the U.S. in the Olympics. He was extremely helpful and helped me with some of the more technical details. The book is still a work of fiction, so there are going to be some areas in which I do not do justice to the sport, but Curt really helped to keep me from totally embarrassing myself.

You were in the secret service and they say Darya Domracheva was allegedly in the KGB. Can you see why a biathlete might do well in that type of job?

It makes sense that many biathletes have backgrounds in law enforcement, military, or the intelligence community. I read somewhere that it was normal for Darya to be given a rank in the KGB because all the biathletes in Belarus were sponsored by the agency. I think in many instances, people who have type-A personalities are drawn to high-level athletics and fields like law enforcement. It is not surprising there is great overlap between biathlon and those other fields in which endurance and marksmanship are so important.

My North American readers will no doubt be able to purchase Bolt Action Remedy in all good book shops but what about the rest of the world? Will it be out in e-book form? Where can they get it?

It is already out there for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and iBooks (iTunes) in paperback and ebook formats. I am also hoping to have it produced as an audiobook by the end of 2017.

Links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734461
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946502049
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bolt-action-remedy-jj-hensley/1126694509?ean=2940158962875


You must have had a rifle. Did it have a name?

Surprisingly, I never had much use for a rifle. As a police officer, I was issued a Sig Sauer P229 pistol and Remington 870 Shotgun. I carried the same weapons when I was with the Secret Service, with the addition of occasionally carrying a Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine gun. So, I had to consult with a friend of mine named Sam Lerch to gain some understanding of non-biathlon rifles. But, to get back to your question – I never named any of my weapons. In fact, many would be surprised to know this, but I do not even like guns.

Describe yourself in three words.

Resilient, Self-deprecating, Dad

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlete:
Tim Burke
Favourite biathlon nation: Have to go with U.S.
Favourite biathlon event (sprint,pursuit etc): Individual
Favourite author: Raymond Chandler
Favourite book (not your own!): Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Favourite writing implement(pen, laptop etc): Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Best thing about being an author: Creating something from nothing and watching it all come to life.

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Praise for BOLT ACTION REMEDY:

” It’s a good read, but is it as good as say a blog all about biathlon? I don’t think so!” – Anon

“J.J. Hensley is a crime writer who deserves readers’ attention and trust, because beyond his ever-stronger prose, he brings his ex-badge carrier’s street smart eyes to this hard world we live in. Hensley goes beyond clichés to the heart of his fiction and his characters, and delivers stories worth your time. Put him on your READ list.” —James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor and recipient of the Raymond Chandler medal and the Grand Prix du Roman Noir.

“In Trevor Galloway, J.J. Hensley has given us a deliciously flawed hero whose unique gift makes him a phenomenal investigator, but also leaves him teetering on the razor thin edge of genius and insanity. In Bolt Action Remedy, the reader follows Galloway on a chilling journey into the snowy world of biathlon as well as into the shadowy vortex of his wounded mind where neither he nor the reader knows at what point reality ends and hallucination begins. Hensley weaves a captivating tale while providing an authentic voice and a dash of ironic humor.” —Annette Dashofy, USA Today bestselling author of the Zoe Chambers Mysteries.

“Fast-paced and funny, Bolt Action Remedy is an action-packed thriller that will keep readers guessing from the first to the final page.” —Rebecca Drake, author of Only Ever You.

“Bolt Action Remedy is the real thing: fast, dangerous, and with a unique setting used in interesting ways. Oh, and another thing: It’s entertaining as hell.” —Andrew Pyper, International Thriller Writers Award-winning author of The Damned and The Demonologist.

“Bolt Action Remedy marks the welcome return of J.J. Hensley’s trademark blend of breathless action, haunting atmosphere and sly wit.” —Gwen Florio, award-winning author of Montana and Disgraced.

“Strap yourselves in. This author guides you to the conclusion through twists, turns, and drops that will leave you so engrossed, you lose track of time.” —Lucie Fleury Dunn, Movies in my Mind Book Reviews.