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.
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.
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.
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.