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Biathlon World Championships Behind the Scenes

13.Mar.2015 by Clare Egan

I finally made my way out of the teams’ area and into the spectator section. What a scene! Food stands advertising “Delicious Foods from Lapland,” small unattended camp fires surrounded by wooded planks on which fish are smoked, people of all shapes and sizes from Finland, Russia and all over Europe enjoying beers and biathlon.

Fur-covered stumps make great seats outside the Biathlon Taverna
Spectators heading into the stadium

The stadium usually fills up with fans several hours before the race starts. Yesterday fans and athletes alike enjoyed the Scandinavian sunset as the 6:15pm start time approached. The silver lining of being so far north that you have a low winter sun that takes forever to set, leaving you with lingering orange skies.

Sunset over the lake, as seen from the race course (photo: Annelies Cook)
(This is what it looked like during the sprint last Saturday.)
(photo: Annelies Cook)
Stadium already filled with fans at dusk
Media tent in the stadium

Behind the scenes, the athletes are warming up and ski wax technicians are making sure the athletes’ skis are going to be as fast as possible. Our team has eight athletes here and four wax techs. Most athletes have at least 8-10 pairs of skis but some have more. Some teams have designated 18-wheeler trucks that carry their equipment around to all of the World Cups.

Norway, Russia and Sweden are a few of the teams with wax trucks.
Teams who don’t bring their own trucks can use one of these containers.
Where the magic happens

The magic also happens at this one funny place that every biathlon World Cup, World Championships and Olympic venue has: the “Family Club”, also known as the “Upsilon”, or the “Y.” It is a cafeteria that serves free food to athletes and staff all day long. Can you believe it???

The Biathlon Family Club

Here are a few more photos of other unexpected things you will find at every biathlon race:

A BMW parked on the course, of course!
And lit trails! We race at night so fans can watch live on prime-time TV.
This Bavarian man.

And here’s something you don’t see at every race, but wish you could: MY BROTHER GRAHAM. He flew in all the way from NYC to cheer for me. My other brother, Guy, was scheduled to come on the same flight, but was not allowed to get on the plane because his passport expires in one month. (Apparently it needs to be valid for three months from your date of arrival in Finland.) BUT, nothing would stop him!!! He went to the NYC passport office the next morning at 7:30am and by 3:30pm had a new passport, and then sped to JFK in time for next flight to Helsinki. He is now here safe and sound.

World Championships- Anything Can Happen!

8.Mar.2015 by Clare Egan

Today was an “anything can happen” kind of day. There was a pre-race blizzard that left fresh powder all over the trail for the early starters to plow through, and we were once again faced with strong, gusting winds. Even some of the best shooters missed a bunch, which sort of evened the playing field for people like me, who might miss a bunch either way. By the time I started with bib 70, thirty-five minutes after the first person, the snow had stopped and the tracks were slick and skied-in.

I missed my first two shots in prone, but hit the last three. After the race, when my coach showed me a picture of where my shots landed, I realized I was lucky to have hit any of them: I had a tight group right on the very left edge of the target, caused by strong wind moving from right to left. I did check the wind flags before shooting, and I thought it was the same as when I zeroed my rifle before the race, but it was stronger, and I should have adjusted my site.

Skiing up “the wall”

Out on the course, the conditions were so much faster than they had been all week that I didn’t even know how to take some of the turns at high speed. The course here suits me because it has a few big hills, including one very long and steep one. I am not the strongest person out here (ha!) but I am light and I have a “big engine”. I also have been working with my coaches a lot this week on how to ski faster on the flats, and I think I did a good job of that today.

 When I came in for standing I chose a point beside someone else, hoping they would block the wind for me a little, and I think it helped. I also got lucky and didn’t have major gusts like some of my competitors. I missed my second and fifth shots and then got going again. I thought for sure that with four misses I would be in like 90th place, so I was shocked when I heard one of my coaches yell “55th place!” Knowing that the top 60 qualify for the pursuit, I really started hammering!

When another coach yelled “35th” place, I was sure either I had misheard him or we were having a language barrier problem. But it turns out that with fast conditions and fast skis, I managed a top-40 course time, and when I combined that with a top-40 range time and 4 misses, I finished in 40th place! I guess I misheard the first coach, who actually said 35th too. The top 40 finishers earn “World Cup Points,” so today I earned ONE World Cup Point and am now officially ranked (last) (…among the ranked people!!!) on the overall World Cup Standings.

After crossing the finishline
On the list!!!

This was my first top-60 World Cup finish and tomorrow will be my first pursuit. My teammate Susan finished 5 seconds behind me today, so she’ll start 5 seconds behind me tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting passed early on by her, and then hanging on for dear life!

I had lots of people watching back home, including those who sent me these screen shots of the live feed. THANKS FOR WATCHING!!! Tomorrow’s race is at 17:00 local time, which, if I am not mistaken, after daylight savings time kicks in, will be 11am EST on Sunday morning.

Putting Oslo Behind, Moving On to World Championships

17.Feb.2015 by Clare Egan

I just wrapped up a week in Oslo, Norway, competing at Biathlon World Cup 8. I am working my way up from the very bottom, which gives me an exceptional opportunity to improve. I did a 15k individual format race with 4 shooting stages, a 7.5k sprint format race with two shooting stages, and a 4x6k women’s relay, with Annelies Cook and the GRP’s Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker.

In the individual, I was 82nd with six misses [1p, 1s, 1p, 3s]. I was disappointed with the last stage but otherwise content. Then in the sprint, I narrowly avoided getting last place, finishing 91st with six misses! Six misses out of ten targets is not good. I am trying to focus on what was good, which was the work I did on the course and on the range; I did everything on my checklist as far as skiing technique and shooting process, and stayed in control the whole time. My misses were really close so I just have to be a tiny bit more precise. Then I had one more opportunity to race today in the women’s relay.

But Sunday proved to be another rough day for me in Oslo. Our team started off well, with Susan using only two spare rounds and skiing the fastest course time for the first leg to tag off in 6th place. But that was the closest we ever made it to the front of the race. Hannah, Annelies and I each had two penalty laps. As I skied my second penalty lap, the winning team from the Czech Republic lapped us and crossed the finish line, so I was pulled from the course and was not allowed to finish. With the exception of Susan’s race, this was not the kind of performance that any of us aspired to as we prepare for World Championships. (See US Biathlon’s race recap of the relay, here, and World Championships roster announcement, here.)

I am trying to focus on the few good things that I did this weekend, even if they were very few. My prone shooting is consistently solid and my ski times are getting faster as I race more. The third component of biathlon, my standing shooting, needs major improvement, but I did hit four out of five targets in one stage of the individual race, so I know the skills are there. We have a few weeks now to practice before World Championships begin in Kantiolahti, Finland on March 4th. I am grateful for the example of my more-experienced teammates and the guidance of US Biathlon’s world-class staff, for helping me keep my head above water. Onto World Championships!


Training in Inzell, Germany

2.Feb.2015 by Clare Egan

While most of the European World Cup racers returned to their home countries, we staked out our own home-away-from-home in Inzell, Germany for the week. One of our wax techs has a family connection to the Rauschbergblick Gasthof so the team often comes and stays here when there are breaks in the competition schedule. There is over half a meter of snow and the skiing is amazing! We have been shooting at the World Cup venue in Ruhpolding, which is the next town over. Tomorrow we’ll depart for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for our next weekend of races. Here are a few pictures from Inzell.

Freddie the Pferd

Tons of snow and beautiful trails in the valley 

Me skiing in the sun! 

The view from our cabin

Hannah, Sean and Lowell soaking up the sun