January on the WC: 3 Weeks and 3 Venues

21.Jan.2012 by Susan Dunklee

Since January 1st, the biathlon World Cup circuit has given us a tour of central Europe.  We started in Oberhof, Germany, a biathlon mecca that attracts over 30,000 fans.  Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic, site of the 2013 World Championships, hosted us the following week and treated us to some of the windiest, snowiest and most challenging race conditions we’ve seen.  Antholz, Italy welcomed us at the start of this week with mountains, altitude, and the first real sunshine of the season.

Oberhof

Favorite moment:

Cooling down with Sara after the Oberhof sprint.  There were so many fans exiting the stadium blocking the sidewalk and road that the only place we could successfully jog was a narrow space in between the 100 or so double parked shuttle buses.  We covered about half a mile running between buses.  Weaving between the crowd and the buses made me feel like I was on The Knight Bus from Harry Potter.

Sara and Annelies dryfire to warm-up before the sprint.

Sara and Annelies dryfire to warm-up before the sprint.

Racers in the crowded finish pen at Oberhof's women’s mass start. We watched from the sidelines because none of us qualified for the race. It's fun to be part of a crowd of over 25,000 fans and have a front row spot to cheer from. I couldn't help but think it would have been even more fun to be in the race.

Racers in the crowded finish pen at Oberhof's women’s mass start. We watched from the sidelines because none of us qualified for the race. It's fun to be part of a crowd of over 25,000 fans and have a front row spot to cheer from. I couldn't help but think it would have been even more fun to be in the race.

Crazy Oberhof fans

Crazy Oberhof fans

Nove Mesto

Favorite moment:

I used to think we had a pirate on our staff, or at least a pirate want-to-be.  He is a wax tech from Czech named Gara, and he always greets us with a hearty “ahoy!”  When we arrived in Czech, I was surprised to discover that many of Gara’s countrymen were also pirates.  Everywhere I went, I heard people hailing each other with “ahoy!”  Then I had a revelation: perhaps Gara wasn’t a pirate at all; perhaps Gara was simply Czech.

Banners along the Nove Mesto race course. Nove Mesto is the only venue I’ve raced at every year since I started biathlon (they often host IBU Cups.) This year they introduced a brand new course in preparation for hosting World Championships next year.

Banners along the Nove Mesto race course. Nove Mesto is the only venue I’ve raced at every year since I started biathlon (they often host IBU Cups.) This year they introduced a brand new course in preparation for hosting World Championships next year.

A view outside our hotel

A view outside our hotel

Most reachable surfaces in the surrounding neighborhood are colored with graffiti. It's actually nice to see some brightness in a gray place.

Most reachable surfaces in the surrounding neighborhood are colored with graffiti. It's actually nice to see some brightness in a gray place.

Some of the team and staff chilling in the hotel hallway. There were very few places in the building where we could pick up a wireless signal.

Some of the team and staff chilling in the hotel hallway. There were very few places in the building where we could pick up a wireless signal.

Antholz

I got off to a rough start in Italy.  We had a very long travel day from Nove Mesto (made even longer by a five hour delay due to car problems) and I was feeling overly tired and depressed from being sick.  All the women on the team were starting to feel the strain of being on the road for so long away from home, family and friends.  I desperately needed to set the reset button in my brain.  The best cure: mountains, sunshine, and racing!

Favorite moment (so far):  When I left the range after my final shooting in the sprint race, I knew I was on track to have my best result yet.  I only missed one target and I was getting splits that I was sitting in about 15th place.  The rest of the race was a fight to earn a mass start spot.  Only 30 athletes get the honor of starting in a mass start- the top 25 ranked competitors from the entire season, and the next 5 best finishers from the previous sprint.  Last year Sara, Laura, and Haley all earned mass start spots at some point during the season (the first time any American women had in years), so I knew it was possible.  I placed17th in the sprint with my best finish yet, and I’m racing the mass start on Sunday!

But first things first:  team relay this afternoon!  This is only the 2nd time this year that we’ve been able to field a women’s team and we are excited.

Finally, the mountainous venue I’ve been waiting for: Antholz!

Finally, the mountainous venue I’ve been waiting for: Antholz!

Armin, one of our coaches, standing behind the scope in his hometown. Most of the US team's staff are Europeans.

Armin, one of our coaches, standing behind the scope in his hometown. Most of the US team's staff are Europeans.

Official training under the first true blue sky I’ve seen in Europe this year.

Official training under the first true blue sky I’ve seen in Europe this year.