Tag Archives: Vancouver Olympic Games

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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Lee In-bok!

LeeIB

Now that those pesky Summer Olympics are over we can look forward to the real Olympics – The Winter Games! I mean is sport without snow even sport at all? Well that’s for the philosophers among you to decide but someone who will be looking forward to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang more than most people is Lee In-bok.

The South Korean biathlete will have the opportunity to compete in a home Olympic Games, a chance that not many sportspeople get. Lee was born in the North Jeolla Province of South Korea on the 30th of March 1984.

He is a vastly experienced member of the South Korean team. He has already competed at two Olympic Games for his country in Vancouver and Sochi. His best result at the Olympics was 65th place in the Sprint race in Vancouver.

He has also taken part in six biathlon World Championships starting in Antholz in 2007 going through to Oslo Holmenkollen last season. His best result for these Championships was 71st in the Sprint race in Nove Mesto in 2013.

On the World Cup he has achieved two Top 60 positions to date but is still waiting for his first points scoring finish. He was 53rd in the Hochfilzen Individual race in 2008/09 which is his career best result. He was also 60th in 2007/08 in the Sprint race at home in PyeongChang.

It will be a very important couple of seasons for Lee In-bok. He will be nearly 34 when the Olympics take place and so he will have to make sure he stays fit so that he can arrive at his home Games in good form.

This season he should be looking to grab a few more Top 60 finishes and obviously the best chance to do this is in the races that he is guaranteed to start – the Sprint and the Individual. There is also the chance to compete in Hochfilzen, the scene of his best finish to date, in the World Championships. Hopefully he can achieve another good result there to boost his confidence before he goes into the Olympic year.

As you will see from his results he won’t be threatening the podium in PyeongChang but it is a chance for him to get his own best result and with the motivation of a home crowd it could see him make it into the Top 40 in one of the events. Possibly more importantly it will give him the chance to showcase biathlon to his fellow Koreans and hopefully make it more popular and encourage more interest and investment in the sport there.

Only three people can win medals in any one race at the Olympics but they are, or should be, about a lot more than that. It is a chance for all the biathletes to show where all their hard work and training has got them and to hopefully encourage more people to take up the sport. It’s about participation and fairness and unity. Not everyone can win a medal but everyone who takes part and especially those like Lee In-bok who are competing in their own country can try and give the best performance of their career.

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Iliev: The Bullet from Bulgaria!

iliev

I love a surprise, don’t you? One of last season’s biggest surprises came from Bulgaria’s Vladimir Iliev. He enjoyed his best season ever and turned in some very impressive performances. It’s always great to see biathletes from the so-called smaller nations doing well and fighting at the top with the big boys! Vladimir was born in Troyan, Bulgaria on the 17th of March 1987 and has been competing on the international stage since 2004.

We first noticed him way back in 2007 when he won his first medal in the Junior Summer World Championships in Otepaa. He took bronze in the 10km Sprint and proved that he is very good on the roller skis by winning the bronze in the Senior Summer World Championships in Nove Mesto in 2011 in the same event. He was also part of the Bulgarian Team who won a bronze medal in the Mixed Relay at the 2011 Universiade in Erzurum.

These achievements may not have made big headlines in biathlon but are significant steps for someone who doesn’t have the money and support behind them like the big teams do. He was making quiet progress on the World Cup up until last year with his best overall finish being 44th in the Total Score. He has taken part in 6 World Championships and 2 Olympic Games which has given him a wealth of experience which is now being put to good use.

Before last season Vladimir had only finished in the Top 20 three times, a 6th place in Pokljuka in 2012/13, an 11th place in the Ruhpolding Individual in 2011/12 and a 15th place in the Antholz Pursuit in 2013/14. Now he can boast 9 Top 20 finishes in a single season and two Top 10 finishes in the World Championships which were his best results by far in that competition. All of these excellent results meant that he finished a fantastic 25th in the Total Score.

So what has brought about this change in Iliev? Well he has always been a consistently good shot. He might not be the fastest shooter but he doesn’t miss a lot of targets. The thing that has improved however is his ski speed. He is now skiing faster and that coupled with his shooting skills has meant that he has propelled himself into the Top 20 biathletes more often and is scoring good points. He isn’t the only one however as his teammate Krasimir Anev also had a successful season. When Bulgarian biathlon legend Vladimir Velickov says “The boys in Bulgarian biathlon are very good” then you know they are doing something right!

The highlight of Iliev’s season was probably winning a medal in the European Championships in Oteppaa the scene of his first Junior medal. Again it was bronze but this time came in the 20km Individual race and is a big step in his career. Next season will be a crucial one for Iliev. He must continue his progress and not slip backwards which can happen very easily. He has to be aiming for the Top 5 and a podium is not out of the question. An improvement on 25th in the Total Score would be a success and a good showing in the World Championships in Oslo must also be on his agenda. Whatever happens in the coming season he is doing a fantastic job representing his country and making people sit up and take notice of Bulgarian biathlon. If he manages to improve his ski speed and shooting even more it will be a good season for the Bullet from Bulgaria!

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Marie-Gold!

dorin wc

Wow she may have competed for less than a full season but she certainly made the most of it! Before Kontiolahti she had never won a race but Marie Dorin Habert changed all that with an amazing end to last season. Born in Lyon, France Marie currently lives in Villard De Lans and is a member of Team Grenoble Isere. She started cross country skiing when she was 14 when her family moved to the mountains and she took up biathlon at age 15. She likes playing the piano and horse riding is another passion of hers. As are cherries! She is married to retired biathlete Lois Habert and they have a daughter called Adele who was born in September 2014.

That’s right her daughter was born just a few months before the biathlon season began which makes her achievements all the more remarkable. We have to start Marie’s amazing journey back in season 2013/14 when she injured her ankle while out running in Oestersund at the very first World Cup round. She slipped in some mud and missed most of the season. She did get back into training just before the Olympics in Sochi but it was far too late for her to have any chance of repeating her medal winning performances in Vancouver.

If you are good at maths you will have worked out that Marie was already pregnant while at the Olympic Games. Normally mums eat for two not compete for two! Not only did she compete however but in the final World Cup round that year she got on to the podium finishing third in the Mass Start in Oslo! A first podium for Adele! She continued to train whilst pregnant which gave her a good chance of returning for the 2014/15 season and she did so coming back in January.

Being a mum is hard enough but being a mum and a professional athlete is even more difficult. It requires time away from your baby to train and compete and it is not an easy thing to do. However it is also a huge motivation because if you are giving up time with your child it means that you are more determined not to waste that time away by doing badly. Marie always seems like a happy, fun woman but there is a steely determination behind all the smiles and this has helped her achieve her extraordinary success.

She made her comeback in Oberhof where she finished 25th in the Sprint. In Ruhpolding she improved that to 15th and was 11th in the Mass Start. In Antholz she was 19th in the Sprint race and came 5th in the Pursuit. In Nove Mesto she was 5th again in the Sprint and 15th in the Pursuit. In Oslo just before the World Championships she was 15th in the Individual and 3rd in the Sprint taking her first podium of the season. Basically since her first race of the year in Oberhof she never finished outside the TOP 25 taking two 5th places and a third place podium all after giving birth in September.

That was just the warm up though! In tough conditions in Kontiolahti she won gold in the Sprint race and followed it up with gold in the Pursuit. Not only that but she won silver in both the mixed and women’s relay races. To leave Kontiolahti with four medals was an outstanding achievement.

It’s not really a total surprise that Marie has done all these things. She does after all have 2 Olympic medals, a silver and bronze from Vancouver and she is a regular in the Top 20 on the World Cup and has often finished on the podium. Marie will be looking forward to next season immensely. She will be able to get in a whole summer of training without breaks and will be hoping to challenge Makarainen and Domracheva for the overall title as well as defending her World titles in Oslo. She certainly has the talent to do all this but she is against top opposition and will have to perform well on a consistent basis. With her sunny disposition and her smiling face she is a fans favourite, an inspiration to other female athletes and she definitely has what it takes to win more Marie-Gold*!

*Marigold is the name of a flower in English.

Marie has her own website: http://familledorin.free.fr

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Kocher: One more round in her maga-Zina?

kocher

It’s not everyone who gets to fulfil their dreams. For example my dream of world domination is not going very well at the moment! My second dream of ruling the world of biathlon has been equally unsuccessful! One person who has been lucky enough to fulfil theirs however is Zina Kocher. After being inspired by the Winter Olympics held in Alberta in 1988 she dreamed of competing for Canada at the Games one day. She has done it 3 times.

Like my dream of ruling the world, becoming a professional athlete who is good enough to be selected to compete for your country is not an easy task. In fact it takes a huge amount not just of talent, but also of motivation and determination. Zina Kocher has all 3 three of these in spades! (I do not!)

Zina has a very animal based background. She was born in Red Deer, Alberta on the 5th of December 1982. At age 7 she joined the Jackrabbit cross country ski program and she also killed a bear when she was three. No wait a minute that was Davy Crocket – easy mistake to make! 😉 She took up biathlon at age 15 and after high school moved to Canmore to train with the Rocky Mountain Racers (who disappointingly seem to have no animal connection at all!)

She made the World Junior Team the first year and the rest is history! She has gone on to compete in 3 Olympic Games including a home one in Vancouver and an incredible 11 World Championships. In season 2006/7 she came third in the Individual Race in Oestersund on the World Cup and became the first Canadian to stand on the podium in over a decade.

The best result she achieved in the Olympics was actually this year in Sochi. She came 25th in the Pursuit race there. The Canadian Women’s relay team finished 8th in Sochi which is a great improvement from 17th in Turin and 15th in Vancouver. Zina was in all of these teams and last season saw the Canadian ladies grab an amazing 4th place finish in the relay in Annecy up against some really strong opposition. Along with Rosanna Crawford, Megan Imrie and Megan Heinicke, Zina has helped make the team one to watch out for next season. Although there is a place up for grabs after Mehan Imrie’s retirement.

It’s not just in the relay that the Canadian ladies help each other out though. In 2009 she was part of a nude fundraising calendar called the Bold, Beautiful, Biathlon calendar along with fellow biathletes Megan Tandy, Sandra Keith, Rosanna Crawford and Megan Imrie. As well as raising funds for the biathletes it was a chance for them to promote the image of a healthy athletic body for young girls. What is also impressive is that at the time Kocher was in fact a fully funded biathlete and did it to help her fellow biathletes.

This season will see Zina take part in her 12th World Championships in Kontiolahti. The Canadian team as a whole had a great last season and they will all be looking for further improvement this time around. Their relay teams have realistic chances of winning medals at the Championships and Zina will provide the experience for them. With 3 Olympic Games under her belt already she will be a great help to the Canadian squad as well as wanting to improve her own performances. I don’t know what her plans for the future are but might she go for another Olympics in Pyeonchang – has Kocher got one more round in her maga-Zina? I hope so! It would be amazing to see her at a 4th Games!

Check out Zina’s website: http://zinakocher.com/
Follow her on Twitter: @ZinaKocher
Like her Facebook Page: ‘Zina Kocher’


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A’Eder the pack!

eder

So if your name was Simon what would your potential nicknames be? How about Si, or Simo or maybe just plain Simple! For some reason Austria’s Simon Eder’s nickname is Sam!! It has obviously stuck as he uses it as the name of his website too: http://www.edersam.com.

Sam or as I like to call him Simon (mainly because it’s his name!) was born in Zell am See on the 23rd of February 1983. His father Alfred Eder was also a biathlete and took part in 6 Winter Olympic Games. Simon has only been to 2 so far so if my Maths is correct that makes his Dad 3 times better than him!!:-) Luckily for Simon his Dad is now also his coach.

Last season was probably his best ever. He won a race on the World Cup for the first time since he claimed his first ever victory in 2008/09. A brilliant end to the season saw him win the Oslo Pursuit to add to his win in the Mass Start in Khanty-Mansiysk from 5 years ago. He also began the season well finishing 2nd in the Oestersund Individual and he just missed out on another podium finishing 4th in the Ruhpolding Pursuit.

He ended the season in fifth place in the Total Score which is his highest finish to date mainly thanks to him coming second in both the Pursuit and Individual standings. The best result of the year obviously has to be his bronze medal from the Sochi Olympics Men’s Relay which he won with Daniel Mesotitsch, Dominik Landertinger and Christoph Sumann. The same team in fact who won silver in Vancouver in 2010 in the same event. He has also finished 4th twice at the Olympics which is the worst position to finish in. He was 4th in the Vancouver Pursuit and 4th in the Individual in Sochi.

He has had quite a successful Olympic career so far but has done less well when it comes to the World Championships. He has competed in 6 but his only medal came again in the relay in Pyeongchang 2009 where Austria finished second. At the age of 31 Simon must be looking to set this right in the coming season in Kontiolahti. He has plenty of experience now and if he can carry his form over from last year he will definitely be in contention to finally grab that individual medal and another relay one too.

Excitingly for us fans Simon has one of the best websites of all the biathletes. It is in German and English and best of all he has his own shop! Yes you can buy Simon Eder goodies straight from his website! He has his own range of T-shirts for men, women and children and my favourite part – he also sells accessories! You can get a mug, a backpack, a lap top case and who in the world wouldn’t want a Simon Eder pencil case! Actually if you have a biathlon fan in the family they would make great Christmas presents. It’s also nice to see biathletes be proactive in the raising of funds and giving the fans a chance to support them and buy a pencil case! (I am obsessed with the pencil case!).

The upcoming year will be an interesting one for Simon and not just in terms of T-shirt sales! He has a real chance to challenge at the very top and to claim a few more wins on the World Cup. The World Championships have to be one of his main goals and he has the ability and the experience to take medals. Let’s hope he has a great year and can finish A’Eder the pack!

 

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Andrejs Rastorgu-YEAH!!!

rastorgujevs

Contrary to popular belief Andrejs Rastorgujevs is just one person! The ‘s’ at the end of both names is just because he comes from Latvia and not because he is plural! I am a huge fan of Rastorgujevs but he managed to drive me mad last season. He was in a winning position so many times and threw a podium away on the final shoot every time. I was willing him in every race to get there but he just missed out.

Apart from that he actually had a fantastic season and made some amazing progress! He finished a career best 4th in the Pursuit in Oberhof (which really led to my desperation to see him on the podium!). He got another seven TOP 10 finishes which really made it an outstanding season for him.

Andrejs Rastorgujevs was born on the 27th of May 1988 in Alūksne, Latvia and is a member of the army as well as being a biathlete. His debut on the World Cup in the 2009/10 season in Oestersund was quite a memorable one – for all the wrong reasons! He finished 47th in the Sprint which you would agree is a pretty impressive first race but only if you finish in the correct lane! He was unfortunately disqualified. However this didn’t stop him heading to Vancouver to compete in his first Olympics where his best finish was 50th in the Sprint. In fact it underlies his massive improvement that his best finish in Sochi was 9th in the Pursuit and his worst result was just 33rd in the Individual.

Andrejs has competed many times in the European Championships where he continued to infuriate me by finishing 5th and 4th in many events over several years!;-). However it all came good in Nove Mesto 2014 and he won gold in the Individual and bronze in the Sprint. This showed that he does have the nerve to handle the pressure in important races and hopefully he can bring that to the World Cup this December.

It’s a really important season coming up for Andrejs. He has got everything he needs to be able to win a race on the World Cup. He has the ski speed to match any of the top men and he is also a consistent shooter. It is just that final shoot he needs to work on and show that he can cope with the pressure of leading a race and being chased down by the other guys. I am pretty confident he can do it and make it on to the podium this season if not all the way up to the top step. Actually he better do it for my sanity and blood pressure watching him and so I can finally shout congratulations Andrejs Rastorgu-YEAH!!!

Check out his website: andrejsrastorgujevs.com

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