By Alex Tareski
In February, Methow Valley Biathlon Team skiers Alex Tareski and Bella Fox attended the Biathlon World Cup in Soldier Hollow, Utah as part of a Camp put on by the US Biathlon Association.
On February 13-17 I got a rare and amazing experience. I was not only able to see but have an inside perspective of the Biathlon World Cup in Soldier Hollow, Utah. Tuesday February 12 my mom and I flew to Salt Lake City where Tim Burke, US Biathlon Development Manager, picked us up from the airport and took us to a house near Soldier Hollow. Tuesday and Wednesday we had 5 more boys and 7 girls arrive along with Danika Frisbie, US Biathlon Sports Program Coordinator.
Once everyone was settled, we headed to Soldier Hollow to watch the U.S biathlon women team and racers from 27 other countries going through their prerace practice. After the IBU training session the range and course was opened up to our group for a test race. The World Cup camera crew needed to find the right angles to see the athletes and we were their test subjects! This meant we would get to ski the race course and shoot the same targets world class athletes would race on the next day! We donned world cup bibs and were off!
That night Danika and Tim gave us athletes from the world cup field to learn about: watching their ski technique and recording their mat time for shooting. They also challenged us to get their autograph or photo. I was to follow the Frenchman Quentin Fillon Maillet.
Thursday was the first race day with the women’s sprint. We listened to the national anthem and watched dancers in the penalty loop while the racers were zeroing. Before the race began, we saw wax technicians for the teams on the course in different bibs testing skis. One approach they used was to ski downhill parallel to each other, crouched inches apart to see which skis glided fastest. Soon we found our spots 10 meters from the start gate where we watched the world cup athletes start their races. After the race we ran to the exit gate and got signatures from our favorite athletes including the Americans. That night we went to the hotel where all the athletes were staying and got to do a question and answer with US stars Susan Dunklee and Claire Egan.
The following days were similar. Friday, we watched the men’s sprint. Saturday was the men’s and women’s pursuit, an exciting format where skiers start according to their finish in the sprint meaning racers stream out of the start gate in a chaotic frenzy. Fillon Maillet ended up winning the men’s pursuit! Sunday, the final day, we watched a single mixed relay and a mixed relay. It was amazing to see the speed in which each athlete hands of to the next!
After getting our final signatures and photos we said our goodbyes to the athletes. I hope to see the world come back to Utah for a World Cup or even the 2030 Winter Olympics. Overall, I had an amazing experience and hope to be able to see another world cup race or maybe even be in one someday.