Tag Archives: Tim Burke

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.

 

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Season 2016/17 Preview: Men

Oestersund, Pokljuka, Nove Mesto, Oberhof, Ruhpolding, Antholz, PyeongChang, Tyumen and Olso! Are you ready? It’s almost time for the new biathlon season to begin! That means it must be time for a season preview too so here it is!

Looking back over previous previews they all read more or less like this. Martin Fourcade is the red hot favourite. If he stays fit and healthy all season he will win the Overall Title for the 6th year in a row. Potential challengers are Johannes Thingnes Boe, Tarjei Boe, Emil Hegle Svendsen, Simon Schempp and Anton Shipulin. They are all capable of beating Fourcade in a single race but don’t seem to have the consistency over a whole season to win the big Crystal globe.

Preview finished!

Only joking! As the top places are nearly always the same for the men I decided that this year’s preview should move away from the elite and see what’s happening a little bit behind them. Who are the up and coming biathletes to look out for? Who could get their first win or first podium? Who should be doing better? That’s what I am going to look at before season 2016/17 gets under way.

It’s sometimes hard to believe but there are some well established biathletes who have yet to win a race on the World Cup. The most famous is probably Simon Fourcade. He has achieved many podium results but never higher than second. Surely this season he will get to the top step. Fellow Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet has also come within a toenail of winning but again second place is his best result. Germany’s Benedikt Doll will be hoping to grab his first win. Tim Burke is another who will want to come first instead of second place as will Sergey Semenov and Benjamin Weger.

Expect a strong season from the Austrian team. Simon Eder was 5th last season in the overall title and Dominik Landertinger was 9th. With Julian Eberhard getting his first win and Sven Grossegger achieving a personal best of 5th they will be a dangerous squad this year.

Hoping to get their first taste of the podium are Andrejs Rastorgujevs who has a few 4th positions to his name already. Klemen Bauer also has a personal best of fourth as does Simon Desthieux and Krasimir Anev.

Scoring points on a more consistent basis will be the goal for biathletes like Mario Dolder, Leif Nordgren, Macx Davies, Kalev Ermits and Martin Otcenas.

Make sure you look out for some of the younger biathletes this season who will be trying their best to impress their coaches and the fans. Watch out for Sean Doherty to continue his rise to the top. The likes of Rene Zahkna, Rok Trsan and Fabien Claude will be pushing hard to do well. Keep an eye out too for Sebastian Samuelsson who has been picked for the Swedish team to make his debut in Oestersund and Felix Leitner who will start his first World Cup race for Austria.

On the other hand it’s about time Freddie Lindstrom had a better season. We haven’t seen him on the podium since 2013. Lukas Hofer didn’t have a great season individually either and it would be good to see him back on form. Jakov Fak will be hoping to improve as will Ondrej Moravec.

There are many more biathletes to watch out for but too many to mention here. The Germans are always dangerous with Peiffer and Lesser showing some good form in patches last time.

Last but not least expect new dad Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to pop up with a few podium finishes and don’t be surprised if he adds more World Championships medals to his vast collection in Hochfilzen. That’s if he can cope with the sleepless nights of course!

Hopefully it will a great season with some more first time winners and some great races. The title race might not be close but we can look forward to some great battles in individual races. Bring it on boys!!!

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Marcel Laponder: The Interview!

laponder

Marcel Laponder was born in Pretoria, South Africa on the 23rd of May 1978. He competed for Great Britain after he moved to the UK when he was 21 and joined the British Army. It was through the army that he discovered biathlon and took up the sport in 2005. He made his World Cup debut in 2008 and his best result was 57th place which came in the Sprint race in Khanty-Mansiysk in season 2010/11. Unfortunately he has had to announce his retirement from the sport due to commitments with the army.

You can like Marcel’s Facebook Page: Marcel Laponder Biathlete


What was your best or favourite race from your biathlon career?

2011 Altenberg IBU Cup Pursuit race where I shot 0 0 0 0 going from 51st to 35th place and a then still active German Athlete said ”how did you do that dude!” That athlete was Daniel Graf who later was to become my coach.


What is your best memory from your biathlon career?

Too many… every race is special and is a honour and privilege to start in. One of those memories would be qualifying for the World Championships pursuit race in Khanty Mansiysk. This year getting my first chance to start the Relay as the first leg in the relay mass starts. The past season’s team atmosphere and camaraderie was memorable.

What advice would you give to young people who would like to become a professional biathlete?


The difference between making it and not is having the correct mind set. Biathlon is brutal not only physically but also full of disappointments which is over come by being mentally strong and having the confidence to believe you can achieve it. What you think will have a huge affect as this translates in to not only shooting reaction but also how you approach training and racing. Of course this alone is no guarantee and the correct smart hard training comes with it and of course a little bit of talent and luck.

You know Scott Dixon and Amanda Lightfoot very well. How do you think they will do this season?

Scott is still young and still has a bright future ahead of him, his strength in the past like his father has been his shooting. As long as Scott can keep securing sponsorship then he is the future of British Biathlon. His focus this season will be to qualify for the next OWG.

Amanda has the hunger for Biathlon. Her training program is brutal and for this she needs to be a tough cookie which she achieves by being mentally strong which also shows in her aggressive racing style. As long as Amanda keeps competing for a bit longer then she has it in her to one day to potentially achieve a top 30 or better. It is not a question if rather a question of when she will achieve it. This past season alone there was at least one opportunity where she nearly achieved this. Don’t forget she started really late in the sport, compared to other athletes who started when they were kids and compared to Amanda who would still be in their teens in terms of training years, then what she has achieved is pretty impressive.

What’s the situation in the Men’s Team this year? Will there be enough guys for the Relay team? What about for the IBU Cup?

Last year we were not able to enter all the relay events due to Jacko and Kevin who retired, also funding was limited for the far flung events in America. This has meant that as a nation we have dropped a start slot in the World Cup. One of the usual World Cup men will probably also be racing on IBU Cup due to the start slot this year. If there is enough qualified athletes then GBR could potentially enter the Relay on the World Cup although the priority this year is OWG. For IBU Cup we have upcoming athletes who are being trained by ex Olympian athlete Lee Jackson (Jacko). So his athletes will most likely fill the available IBU Cup spots.


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

Hochfilzen. I love the course with the fast technical corners and the short up and downs. It has a hard range approach which makes things interesting, I feel at home there and generally have always had descent results in Hocky. Also Forni Avoltri is a track which I love, it is an IBU Cup course. A small venue which has a hard track tucked away in the mountains with stunning scenery.

Perhaps not really a track but location. Frassinoro, Italy, which hosts the Frassinoro Summer biathlon festival, super friendly biathlon loving town and a great event with Italian flair.


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

Marie Dorin Habert and Tim Burke must be some of the humblest athletes and this I respect. Simon Fourcade I also like and is an athlete that I would really like to see do well.

Does your rifle have a name?

Hmm no

Describe yourself in three words.

Hmm I didn’t know so I asked three people:
my wife says: chilled out
Scott says: reliable
Amanda says: honest

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): I need to mention two, Canada and Norway
Favourite rifle design (any biathlete): Quentin Fillon Maillet has a sweet rifle stock.
Favourite ski suit design (from any nation): I really like the suit of Finland this year.
Favourite shooting range: Hochfilzen
Lucky bib number: 23 🙂
Funniest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Ha easy… Scott Dixon…watching him attempting to pack his bag to travel to the next event is entertainment for hours.
Nicest biathlete on the World/IBU Cup: Karoly Gombos from Hungry always easy to talk to and approachable. The Japanese coaches are probably some of the friendliest on circuit.
Best thing about being a biathlete: Hard question to pin point, so many small things that add up. Being able to train in beautiful locations, the people and places that I meet and see. The race atmosphere created by the crowds. Its a hard sport with so many variables and just being given the chance to see if I can do it makes it worth it.

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WC8: Presque Isle Review 2016!

pi16

Scarily it’s World Cup Round 8 already – the final one before the World Championships! We were in Presque Isle in Maine, USA for this one and the conditions were great for the first races that took place on Thursday.

The Men’s Sprint came first and was won by a refreshed Johannes Thingnes Boe.He skipped the last round in Canmore and flew out with big brother Tarjei for this one. That was a good decision! He won by over 27 seconds shooting clean. In second was Anton Shipulin who beat Martin Fourcade into third by only 1 second. However Anton shot clean and Martin missed a target. The Swiss team had a great race with a personal best for Serafin Weistner in fifth and teammate Benjamin Weger was sixth with by far his best result of the season. Thirteen may be unlucky for some but not Sean Doherty who got his career best result on the World Cup at home fresh from winning 3 medals at the World Junior Championships.

The Women’s race was up next and was won by Total Score leader Gabriela Soukalova which obviously means she extended her lead in the race for the Overall Title. She is a very popular biathlete but possibly not in Preque Isle as she beat home favourite Susan Dunklee into second place. The fans can’t be too upset though as that is Susan’s best ever result and she saved it for them. Third place went to Krystyna Guzik who is having a great time in North America taking 2 podiums in 2 weeks. Kaia Nicolaisen got a personal best in 9th as did Celia Aymonier in 11th.

Friday saw both the Pursuit race and again the men raced first. The weather conditions were much more difficult for this one with some wind and a lot of cold around -16. Martin Fourcade was again victorious beating Johannes Boe into second and Anton Shipulin remained in third. Fourcade missed 2 shots and the others missed three but the big difference was when they missed. Martin cleared the final shoot and the others didn’t which is so often how he wins. Erlend Bjoentegaard raced into 5th for a personal best. Estonia’s Kalev Ermits came from 19th to 11th to earn his career best result.

Other impressive Pursuit races were had by Tim Burke who went from 20th to 7th, Vladimir Iliev 21st to 8th, Alexander Polvarnitsyn 28th to 10th, Oleksander Zhyrnyi 31st to 16th, Dmytro Rusinov 49th to 33rd and Daniel Boehm 54th to 37th. It wasn’t a good race however for Arnd Peiffer who came off the tracks at a corner and hit a tree. He was taken to hospital with suspected concussion.

In the Women’s race, despite being critical of holding the round in Presque Isle, Gabriela Soukalova made it a double victory! Second place went to Kaisa Makarainen who moved up from 5th and in third place was Marie Dorin Habert despite missing 5 targets. Mona Brorsson achieved a peronal best finishing in 17th as did Tatiana Akimova who was 19th.

Other women with good Pursuit results were Lisa Hauser who went from 28th to 12th, Franziska Preuss 36th to 14th, Ekaterina Shumilova 39th to 16th, Anais Chevalier 50th to 21st, Lisa Vittozzi 46th to 29th and Dunja Zdouc 52nd to 30th

Both the Men’s and Women’s Relays were held on Saturday. Originally the Women’s Relay was scheduled for Sunday but low temperatures below -20 degrees were forecast and the races cannot take place below that temperature. The Men’s race was full of excellent shooting. Norway were the winners using only 7 spares with Lars Helge Birkeland, Erlend Bjoentegaard and the Boe brothers. France were second using only 2 spares rounds but even with Desthieux and Beatrix shooting clean in legs 3 and 4 they couldn’t match the Norwegians. Third place went to Germany who used 11 spares to beat Russia for the final podium place by 6 seconds. The USA were 5th in their home race their best Relay result of the season.

The Women’s race started 2 hours after the Men and consequently finished in the dark! Maybe they should have pushed the schedule forward as the only light seemed to be a torch across the finish line! The winners of the race were the Czech Republic who even with a penalty loop crossed the beam of light first. The team of Eva Puskarcikova, Lucie Charvatova, Gabriela Soukalova and Veronika Vitkova will get a good confidence boost ahead of the World Championships. The race for the remaining podium places was really tight. In a Sprint finish Olena Pidhrushna of Ukraine lunged over the line 0.2 of a second ahead of Germany’s Karoline Horchler to grab second. Poland had to settle for fourth with Krystyna Guzik just half a second behind.

So that’s it for our journey to North America. Fourcade and Soukalova continue in yellow (as usual!!). It has been an enjoyable 2 weeks and Presque Isle did a good job of hosting and brought the cold that has been missing this winter as well as a penalty loop that goes around a building! Now everyone heads back to Europe for 2 weeks of recovery and preparation for the World Championships with the first race on the 3rd of March. Don’t miss it!

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Trans-Atlantic Turmoil!

canmore

The season is still over 4 months away but already there is trouble brewing over the World Cup schedule for the year. This season marks a return to racing in North America with World Cup 7 in Canmore, Canada and World Cup 8 in Presque Isle, USA. Great news for North American fans of biathlon but the decision hasn’t gone down quite as well with everyone.

Firstly we heard from World Cup holder Darya Domracheva who said she would be skipping the events to concentrate on the World Championships in Oslo. This basically means she won’t be defending her title and after having been recently diagnosed with mononucleosis she is unlikely to change her mind.

Next we heard from the three Top Norwegian men who are considering missing the two World Cup rounds to concentrate on their home World Championships. There is a two and a half week break between Presque Isle and Holmenkollen but it seems that this isn’t enough for them. Emil Hegle Svendsen wishes the races were in Europe and Tarjei Bø hates the way that it has been set up so there is a strong chance that they will remain at home. Johannes Thingnes Bø is of a similar opinion saying that not everyone is going to go to the North American rounds. With coach Egil Gjelland describing it as a “headache” the likelihood is that they won’t be the only ones thinking about their participation.

Do they have a point? Is the schedule a bad one? Well there was some discussion about putting the North American rounds at the start of the season so there has been concern about it for some time. This was deemed unworkable however as the first 2 stops in Oestersund and Hochfilzen can guarantee snow whether from the sky, storage or stolen from the mountains. It wouldn’t be great if everyone went to Canada at the start of the season and then the races were cancelled. There is also the matter of money. Quite a few of the smaller nations will probably not be able to afford to attend these rounds due to travel and accomodation costs and so holding them at the start would be a disadvantage to them.

In reality there is not another space on the calendar for these events. It’s not as if you could go there another year instead as the future World Championships are also in Europe. So what then is the point of going at all? Well there are many reasons. The Canadians and Americans have to come over to Europe and stay there for anything up to six months which incurs huge accommodation costs. They can’t go home for the weekend! If they are lucky they might get home over Christmas but then they have to suffer jet lag when they come back. They are also doing very well at the moment and deserve some home races.

Usually the World Cup goes to North America once every 4 or 5 years so it is only right and fair that they get the opportunity to grow the sport there by hosting events. Not to mention the great facilities and amazing scenery that they can boast. The IBU have also decided to put Canmore first because of the great access to Calgary airport with many flights from Europe and then Presque Isle second to make the return flight to Europe shorter. So they have tried really hard to make the transition back to Europe as easy as possible which in reality they didn’t have to do.

On the other hand you can understand some of the Norwegians concerns. It is a long journey and the different time zones not only between Europe and Canada but also between Canmore and Presque Isle mean it will be hard on the body clock. Their main worry of course is being in the best shape possible for the World Championships. It is not often you get to race those at home and let’s face it they do have very good chances of winning medals! However they might change their minds closer to the time if one of them is in with a chance of winning the Overall Title.

No one has officially pulled out of the race yet as it is far too early to do so. However if they do it will be a real shame for the North American spectators not to see such great biathletes racing. On the other hand it might increase the chances of the home biathletes like Nathan Smith, Rosanna Crawford, Tim Burke and Susan Dunklee winning or making the podium at their home races!!!

In an ideal world everyone would go to race in Canada and the US. I am afraid however that there will be some absences and the Norwegians are the likeliest to skip the rounds. They should be careful though because if they are not competing at the top level before the Championships they might not arrive in Holmenkollen in top race condition. I am sure Martin Fourcade, if he is fit and healthy, will be in North America and he could also go to Oslo and make Svendsen and the Bø brothers regret their decision. It would be nice if a Canadian or American wins a medal in Norway too just to show it can be done!! There is still a long time until we get to these races but I don’t think it will be last we hear of the Trans-Atlantic turmoil!

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Max Durtschi: The Interview!

max1

Max Durtschi from Ketchum, Idaho in America is one of US biathlon’s newest recruits. He made the decision to become a biathlete after retiring from professional cycling. When he was young he was an accomplished cross country skier and also enjoyed shooting so naturally he became a cyclist!!! Now having seen the error of his ways the 24-year-old is embarking on a new career in biathlon and he made his debut on the IBU Cup last season in Canmore.

You can follow Max on Twitter: @MaxDurtschi

You used to be a professional cyclist. How and why did you become a biathlete?

I grew up ski racing and spent a lot of time shooting with my father. In 2013, I retired from cycling, and really wanted to get back to my skiing roots. At some point during that winter I was shooting with a friend and something clicked. I thought, “I need to try biathlon.” I can’t explain why the thought came to my mind, but it was pretty clear to me that I should give the sport a shot.

As someone who is relatively new to biathlon what do you find most difficult? What are the things you need to improve on for the coming season?

The coming season is really exciting for me because I can improve in everything. I did not have a chance to ski often when I was a cyclist and learning how to shoot well and consistently is a big challenge. A focus of mine this summer is to build strength in my upper body. I lost a lot of that during my time as a cyclist.


What were your goals for last season and did you achieve them?

Last year my goal was to learn. Every single day I wanted to make progress and educate myself. At the beginning of the year I did not even know what the different race formats were. By the end of the season I was able to compete in an IBU Cup in Canmore, which was a very valuable learning experience. Overall, last season was challenging, but I can be happy with the progress I made.

Do you receive any funding? If not how do you pay for equipment, travel etc?

I am very fortunate to be supported by USA Biathlon. They are providing me with the structure that I need to succeed. In addition, Powerbar, Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Foundation, and Play Hard Give Back provide me with remarkable support.

What’s your typical day like?

Everyday I wake up and take a moment to make a decision, “Today, am I going to work hard to be better at my trade?” The answer is always “Yes.” From there, my day is filled with skiing, running, shooting, gym work, and other forms of training. I do usually have time to eat a bit and have a nap too…

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Have you been able to train with anyone from the World Cup Team yet? If so what was it like? What did you learn from them?

I am very fortunate to interact with the World Cup athletes on a daily basis. They bring a level of professionalism to every single training session. I have learned from the focus they exhibit during shooting exercises. They make every single bullet count on the range, and I strive to do the same.

If you could steal one characteristic from another biathlete, what would it be, who from and why?

I admire the body language of Johannes Thingnes Boe when he approaches the range. He looks mean, assertive, and confident – like he is hunting the targets. I try to keep that same attitude in training and racing.

Who is your role model? (in biathlon or in general)

I really admire the work ethic of my parents. Both have incredible stories, and are great examples of determination overcoming circumstance. When my training sessions are particularly hard, I think about the things they have had to overcome and it inspires me.

Sportspeople are famous for being superstitious. Do you have any superstitions? Do you always put your right/left ski on first or wear the same underwear on race day?!

I am not superstitious. I believe that confidence is a very important trait in sport and regardless of external factors, I believe that everyday I am capable of performing well.

What do you do to relax and forget about biathlon for a bit?

I really enjoy fishing, watching movies, and reading. I live with Sean Doherty at the Olympic Training Center, and we have a really good time together joking and talking. This really helps keep my mind off of sport when need be.

Normally I ask if your rifle has a name but your rifle has a whole life story. Can you tell me about it?

My rifle means a lot to me. It belonged to a remarkable young man, and friend of mine, Willie Neal. He passed away, but his spirit is alive and well. He inspires me to work hard every day. His family was kind enough to pass his rifle on to me, and I do my best to represent Willie in a positive light.
For more about Willie Neal and the Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Foundation see here: http://www.wnealenvirofund.org/

Describe yourself in three words.

This is tough… I will go with: Relaxed, Thoughtful, Driven.

Quick fire Questions:

Favourite biathlon track: Hochfilzen, Austria
Favourite biathlete (past or present): Tim Burke
Favourite event (sprint, pursuit etc): Individual
Favourite/best race of your career so far? Individual IBU CUP 8 Canmore, AB
Favourite food: Good Oatmeal
Favourite singer/band: Kelly Joe Phelps
Favourite film: So many! Apollo 13
Favourite sports team: Seattle Seahawks
Favourite TV show: SportsCenter

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Biathlete23: Season 2014/15 Review!

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After the excitement of a debut season your next full year on the World Cup can be difficult. There are no excuses you know what it’s all about now. Mostly you just want to improve your performances and results from the season before. It’s been an up and down year for biathlete23 but thankfully no one suspended for doping which is always good news. In case you don’t know this blog follows the fortunes of whoever is lucky enough to be drawn in bib 23 throughout the season and calculates the points to see how they compare to the real biathletes. Last year there were 2 wins from the bib from Selina Gasparin and Johannes Thingnes Boe which were coincidentally on the same day and were also their debut wins!

This year got off to a slow start no doubt due to the pressure that biathletes suffer when they learn they are in bib 23 and have to represent the blog. It may also be from fear of repraisals from me. If you think the Norwegian coaches are tough you haven’t seen anything yet! In Oestersund the biathletes in 23 were Diana Rasimoviciute, Simon Desthieux, Dmitry Malyshko,Juliya Dzhyma, Jitka Landova and Lowell Bailey which yielded a total of 64 points. Not the best results ever but it was still early days.

On to Hochfilzen and happy days! Kaisa Makarainen was drawn in bib 23 and went on to win the Sprint! The first win of the season is always sweet. It was backed up by a solid 17th place for Krasimir Anev. In the Pursuits Luise Kummer failed to score any points but Maxim Tsvetkov was 21st and meant a total of 104 points from the round.

The last races before Christmas came in Pokljuka and I was lucky enough to get home favourite Teja Gregorin into bib 23! She didn’t disappoint coming home in 7th and for the men Simon Eder took 11th place. Fredrik Lindstrom finished 12th in the Pursuit but bad luck struck when Tiril Eckhoff pulled out of the race. In the Mass Start Quentin Fillon Maillet got 12th and Fanny Horn 21st which meant leaving Slovenia with 115 points.

Luckily for her Tiril Eckhoff got to make up for her DNS in Pokljuka by finishing 13th in the Sprint in Oberhof. Backing her up in 10th was Artem Tyshchenko. Fanny Horn did the business again getting 29th in the Mass Start and Vladimir Iliev kept up the points scoring with 19th in the men’s race which gave a points total of 93. It was then on to Ruhpolding where we started with the women’s Sprint and a fourth place from Valj Semerenko! In the men’s race it was over to legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who was 15th. It’s always a pleasure to see Ole Einar in bib 23! On to the Mass Starts with Lisa Hauser taking 21st and Vladimir Iliev, in his second appearance in 23, coming home 30th. Biathlete 23 left Germany with 100 points from round 5.

Antholz came next and it wasn’t the highest scoring round. Daniel Mesotitsch failed to score any points coming 45th in the Sprint. Juliya Dzhyma did better in 30th for the women. The Pursuit saw 2 Czech biathletes race with Gabriela Soukalova in 21st and Michal Krcmar in 24th. That only meant a total of 48 points for bib 23.

Just like after Hochfilzen biathlete23 doesn’t take disappointing results lying down -oh no! Laura Dahlmeier stepped up in Nove Mesto and won her first World Cup race and 60 points! Woo hoo second win of the season. It was Emil Hegle Svendsen’s turn next but he failed to get any points finishing 43rd in the men’s race. We can rely on the Czechs though and another one Eva Puskarcikova got 14th in the Pursuit and Simon Fourcade went one better and came home 13th. Another 115 points gained.

In Oslo we saw Juliya Dzyhma in bib 23 for the third time this season and she used the occasion to perform well. She came in 6th in the Individual to earn some vital points to make up for Ondrej Moravec who was 70th staining the Czechs good form in the bib. In the Sprint Kadri Lehtla was 28th and another appearance for Vladimir Iliev saw him finish 27th. 65 points was the total from that weekend.

So it was on to Kontiolahti and as the result counted towards World Cup total score it was important to have some biathletes in the points here too. The Sprint races were first and Daria Virolaynen came in 21st and Dominik Windisch was 35th. In the Pursuit we had Ondrej Moravec, making up for Oslo, who was 9th and Megan Heinicke in 28th. For the Individual Anna Magnussen was 72nd and Tim Burke 31st. Lastly we had the Mass Start and Jana Gerekova was 12th for the women and in the men’s race my old pal Brendan Green was in bib23 once again. That’s the Olympics and now the World Championships where he found himself in bib 23! That’s why he is the unofficial ambassador for bib23 (unpaid position!). He finished 21st and meant total points from Kontiolahti were 130.

On to the final round and Khanty Mansisyk. The last chance to score points and see where biathlete 23 would have finished in comparison to the other biathletes in the total score. The first races were the Sprints and for the men Simon Fourcade was 8th. Why he chose this one occasion not to come 4th I don’t know!!! For for the women Elise Ringen was 47th which meant no points. In the Pursuit race Tiril Eckhoff was back and got 17th while Florian Graf got 18th place. The final races were the Mass Starts and biathlete 23 regular Juliya Dzhyma finished in 18th and Sergey Semenov was 26th. The final points total from Russia was 119.

So where did that leave us at the end of the season. Well like the real biathletes you have to deduct your two worst finishes from your total but as biathlete 23 had more than 2 non points scoring finishes it wasn’t necessary!!! The final total for the men was 467 which would have put them in equal 20th place in the overall with the exact same score as Jean Guillaume Beatrix! The women’s total was 481 and left them between Daria Virolaynen in 16th and Susan Dunklee in 17th in the overall. The big question however was did they do better than last year?

Last year’s total score for the men and women combined was 754 points. This year it is 948! An improvement of 194 points. Although last year the Olympics didn’t count towards the overall so that will account for some of the difference but even if you deduct the World Championship points of 130 the score would be 818 points so it is still a better year than the first! The women’s score last year was 407 and the men’s was 347. Good news the results improved! The coach is very happy!!!

Special thanks goes to all the biathletes who are lucky enough to be drawn in bib23 and that have scored points for biathlete 23! Juliya Dzhyma has been in bib23 a record 4 times this year! A great team player! Obviously the biggest thanks has to go to the two athletes who won in bib 23 Kaisa Makarainen and with her debut win Laura Dahlmeier! Biathlete 23 will return next year and who knows maybe we can win 3 races and sneak into the TOP 10! 🙂

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