How does it feel to be on the US winter Olympic team?
It’s an honor! I can’t speak for all of the events but I can tell you what it’s like to compete in the sport of biathlon. My career began a long time ago and I learned from the start that biathlon was going to be demanding and tricky sport to pursue.
So what is a biathlon?
In short, biathlon is the combination of cross-country ski racing with marksmanship shooting. The contrast of two very different sports makes for an exciting event. Athletes ski either a three or five lap (depending on the format of the day) race with shooting stages between each lap, excluding the final lap. Each stage of shooting has five targets. Positions are either laying down in prone or standing. Every stage has five targets, targets in prone are about the size of silver dollar and standing targets are about the size of a small dinner plate. For every miss out of the five, the athlete has to ski an additional 150 meter (160 yards) penalty lap after they exit the range. The object is to both out ski the competition on the course while also hitting all five targets per shooting stage. Everything, from racing on the course to time spent on the range, and of course seconds in the penalty loop is a part of the whole race.
How did you get into the sport?
My role in this started when I was 14 years old. A local organization had recently formed that was aimed at creating more healthy lifestyles to the state of Maine using xc skiing as a vector. One of the methods to reach this goal was to offer world-class support in both biathlon and xc ski racing. For reasons still unknown to me, I decided to try it out. While the physical talent side of the decision is still in the works, the mental side of the sport was ready to go after that first youth practice. In the following years, I would go on to compete at the Junior World championships and later Senior and World cup level races. Through my twenties, my results went up and down. Some years I was on the top of the team list and other years not even on the email list. So it goes without saying that I was more than excited to pull through and make it onto a second Olympic team.
Is the biathlon a popular event?
The sport’s popularity has increased since I started. In Europe, biathlon is the most viewed winter sport. Spectator counts will exceed several thousand for certain venues. Unfortunately, our sport is still an unknown in North America. The attention typically ramps up every four years for the Olympics, but believe it or not this is what we do from late November to March every winter. The rest of the year is spent training. Cross country ski racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world doesn’t leave much time for anything else. With the increase in popularity came a very competitive racing field. It was clear that finding even a few seconds here and there was going to be crucial.
How did you make the decision to join Republic Wireless?
With the demand on my time and resources coupled with year-round travel, there wasn’t time for a job. Without the popularity in North America, there wasn’t much for funding support. With that, I had to tread carefully; making the most of my resources. This is why I wanted to share my story with the Republic Wireless community. The top tier phone plans at the time had everything I would need for my constant day to day use no matter where I was traveling but were out of the question in the price range. The very low-end phone options were affordable but didn’t feel dependable enough for what I needed. After some searching around I came to this site. Despite my best efforts, there was little to no catch. It’s not very often that you find a company that works with the customer rather than against. Even more so in the mobile phone world. When my teammates were scrambling to find service in Europe I was calling off of local wifi with ease. Sharing my story with this community felt like a great place to spread the word about what the Olympics mean to one small hometown kid who survived the gauntlet to make it here. Republic Wireless is here for those of us who don’t want to break the bank for top quality technology.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me Russell!
@russellcurrier will be available tomorrow, March 15, to answer questions from our Community members from 5-6pm ET. If that time doesn’t work well for you, leave your question now and he’ll get back to you then.
That’s 5-6pm EST, right?
Yes, it is eastern standard time!
Thank you so much for sharing your amazing Olympic journey and helping us better appreciate the sport of biathlon. Good luck to you with your continued training and success.
Hello and welcome to the Community from a fellow New Englander. Well, in my case, a former New Englander currently located in South Florida.
I remember growing up watching the Olympics thinking the biathlon was one weird sport. I mean no offense, it’s just the combination of XC skiing (which is quite challenging in and of itself) and target shooting struck me as odd. According to the extremely reliable source known as Wikipedia, the sport grew out of Scandinavian hunting and/or military traditions. I can see a certain logic in that, however, I’d love to hear any insight you have as an elite participant in the sport as to its origins and how it made its way to the U.S.
Additionally, I’m curious about the transition between XC skiing and target shooting. I’m a lifelong runner (and tried my hand at XC skiing in my long ago youth). I can’t imagine stopping mid run or ski (with a presumably elevated heart rate) to focus on something requiring precision like target shooting. Presumably physical training plays a role, however, I’d be more interested to hear what one needs to do in terms of mental preparation to be able to slow things down, so as to properly focus on something requiring a fair amount of mental discipline such as target shooting.
I hope you enjoy your time here in the Community and return from time to time to let us know what you’re up to competitively!
It’s always surprise me that the biathlon was not more popular sport in the US, after all cross country skiing is done in many part of the US and the sport shows a responsible use of a rifle (and with the us being one of the more open gun ownership I would think more would enjoy this both as a spectator and as participant)
Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
MJ’s quote has encouraged me in my quest to learn Spanish, which like basketball demands diligence and persevering effort in spite of mistakes.
Do you agree with MJ’s statement? If so, how have mistakes helped you succeed in your sport?
What is your practice routine like?
Was there any particular time when you were especially grateful that you were able to use RW’s service internationally via wifi?
Yes, biathlon is strange one. It keeps thing interesting for the athletes and spectators. I wasn’t around much for the origins of the sport but the general consensus is that it was sparked out of northern Europe where is still very popular today. For the US, I go as far back as the early 2000s. From the 90s and earlier athletes that competed for the US that I’ve met it sounds like the sport was much more unknown than it is now.
As far as bringing together a precise shot in the middle of something as physically demanding as XC skiing it comes down to matter of rhythm. We average about 15,000 to 20,000 rounds a year. During a race we’re just trying to execute something we’ve done hundreds of times before. Heart rate isn’t going to drop enough in the time that it takes to shoot five rounds. Nailing then timing of breaths and confidence to execute what we practice is the most limiting factor.
Yeah, we’re (the US team) are always surprised and sometimes frustrated about the popularity of biathlon in the US. Whenever I’m able to point someone in the right direction for live feed of a race they always say it was much more exciting to watch than they expected. The nature of it really makes for an exciting event.
Yes very much so! I’ve described biathlon as a “very cruel and vicious sport” due to the high rate of failure before a great day. There is such a long and steep learning curve to this sport. The set back time far exceeds the success time. Still, for a talented as some of the other athletes are no one has averaged perfect shooting scores for an entire season. With that in mind, not acknowledging the mistakes is impossible.
It’s a full time job. Training consists of a lot of roller skiing (similar to skis, but function on pavement) in the summer months, a lot of running, cycling, and some weight room time. Training for the shooting side is a lot of dry firing (aiming without ammo) and on range drills.
Yes, the best example was during the 2014 racing season. The last race of the Olympic trials were over and I was named to the team for the first time. Unfortunately, there was no wifi in that part of Italy. When we switched hotel the next day, my phone remembered the wifi password from the year before. Thankfully, it was set to vibrate, because the voice mails and messaged that missed the day before caused it to vibrate for about five minutes straight in the lobby. When I discovered how easily I could make calls with my normal cell number I had to keep it a close knit secret so I wouldn’t get hit with so many interviews that week