Susan Dunklee is an American biathlete who was born on the 13th of February 1986. She enjoyed her best season to date in 2016/17. She finished 10th in the Total Score and more importantly won her first World Championship medal taking silver in the Mass Start in Hochfilzen. She is the first American women to win a medal at a major Championships and in doing so qualified to race for the US at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang this March. Her father Stan and her uncle Everett have both competed for America at the Olympics in cross country skiing.
Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanDunklee
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Check out her blog: https://susandunklee.wordpress.com/
Why did you become a biathlete?
I didn’t want to give up ski racing after college. USBA offered a better training and living situation than any US xc ski club at the time, so I figured why not learn how to shoot?
The Mass Start in Hochfilzen. Talk us through your silver medal winning race and your emotions at the end.
I felt inspired after watching Lowell’s Individual. I remember thinking that I had got my first ever WC podium in 2014 the week after he got his first podium.
Despite that, I didn’t feel particularly good going into the race. By the end of the Championships you have raced so much that both your body and head feel fried. I had to remind myself that everyone else was exhausted too and that there is opportunity in that.
Much of that race felt surreal. Leading was an experience that I’m not very familiar with. I didn’t intend to lead because it’s usually not a smart tactical decision and it is harder to ski fast and efficiently by yourself. However, after every shooting stage I found myself alone out front. It seemed silly to just pull over for 5 seconds and let the pack catch up. So I skied my own pace, tried to stay relaxed and didn’t worry about what the pack did.
People ask me if the last shooting stage felt any different. In this case, no, it was more of a deja vu feeling. It felt just like the 3 stages before it. I remember thinking after the last shooting stage that now it was time to “get the hell out of there” because I knew some fast people would be chasing my tail. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to challenge Laura [Dahlmeier] when she caught me, but I was so psyched to hold onto second. It truly was a perfect race for me.
Apart from your medal you were also 10th in the Total Score. What was the key to your great season?
Shooting speed had been my biggest focus during training for a couple years and that work started to pay off last winter.
You had some good results at the World Cup round in PyeongChang. Has that given you a lot of confidence for the Olympics? Do you like the tracks and range there?
It doesn’t matter if I like them or not. What matters is if I’m willing to make those tracks and that range “my own” so that I will feel strong and confident there.
What are your goals for next season for the World Cup as well as the Olympics?
To keep my focus on “performing well.” If I can do that, the results will take care of themselves.
Team USA is a really close team. What was it like watching Lowell win his gold medal at the World Champs?
Lowell put together an impressive performance which personified a tremendous effort on the part a whole host of people. For an achievement like that you need everything to go right such as ski fitness, shooting performance, and ski preparation. There are so many people who contributed to making that possible- coaches, teammates, ski techs, physios, managers, psychologists, sponsors, supportive friends and family back home…. Everyone in the USBA community felt some ownership of America’s first gold medal moment and that’s one of the reasons why I think the US Team is special.
Have you noticed any changes in the popularity of biathlon in the US after your recent success? Has it helped you with funding and sponsors?
Not as much as we had expected.
What have you been doing for summer training?
Same routine as usual- roller skiing, shooting, running, biking, lifting, etc. We did an on-snow camp in May in Bend, Oregon as well as a three week camp in Germany in September.
One of your hobbies is bee keeping. How did you get into that and why do you like it?
I already was interested in pollination systems after studying them in college. A few years ago I visited one of my ecologist friends who kept honey bees and I watched a barefoot “bee-whisperer” capture an escaped swarm. I was fascinated. Working with bees is a lot like shooting in a high pressure race situation. The consequences of making mistakes are high and you must conquer your fears and stay calm.
Do you have a favourite biathlon track? Where is it and why?
Nove Mesto has the best atmosphere with the biggest, friendliest crowds of spectators. I love racing there.
Who is your favourite biathlete (past or present) and why?
Michal Slesingr, Martin Fourcade and Lowell Bailey. They are phenomenal athletes and leaders who insist on fighting for the integrity of our sport.
Does your rifle have a name?
Describe yourself in three words.
Sincere, hardworking, contemplative.
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Sweden
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Anton Shipulin’s dragon
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Michael Rösch. Honorable mention: Stefani Popova
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Toss up: Johanna Taliharm, Anais Bescond, and Katja Yurlova.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Recovery massages.
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