This is the second year in a row that Ostersund has hosted the first World Cup of the season. Like last year, it is unseasonably warm, just reaching freezing at night and about plus 6 Celsius during the day. Last year, there was barely enough snow to conduct three days of competition. This year, thanks to a big storm with cold temperatures in early November, the tracks are well covered and the organizers have huge stocks of manmade snow to make fair racing conditions for every competition.
The US Biathlon Team has been in Sweden most of the month, doing final preparation for the season. Even though much of the month has been warm, the team has not missed a beat in their training. They spent the first 10 days training in Torsby, using the Fortum Ski Tunnel, the longest facility of its kind in the world. While there, they also completed final tests of race ammunition and went through a final round of physical tests. From Torsby, they moved to Solleftea, Sweden for a few days before coming here, where conditions although a bit warm have been good.
During the past month and especially as the first competitions approach, anticipation fills the air. “The athletes are really eager to start racing. We have had some good training and physical testing in the past few weeks,” according to coach Per Nilsson. As the athletes anticipate their season debut, the new US Coaches Nilsson and Mikael Lofgren are equally excited to see how the team they have worked with for just over six months performs this week. Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) commented, “I think the coaches are as excited as we (the athletes) are.”
The US biathletes will get a good test this week as all of
the stars of biathlon are in Ostersund. The big names to watch continue
to be Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway, Raphael Poiree of France on the
men’s side, while Kati Wilhelm of Germany and Sandrine Bailly of France
are the top women.
Leading the US Biathlon Team are:
The competition schedule this
week, with all times in CET (Central European Time):
Wednesday’s 15K Individual favors the deadly accurate shooting of the Barnes’ sisters. This competition will be a bit of a comeback for the two Olympians, who struggled with illness during the Olympic season. They are eager to be competitive again on the World Cup Circuit. 39-year-old Sarah Konrad ended last season with her first top 30 finish in her biathlon career. As an Olympian in both cross-country and biathlon, Konrad is one of the fastest skiers in biathlon and hopes to be in the top 30 more than just once this year.
The clocks is ticking as the organizers put up the final banners, continue to groom the tracks, and prepare for the live television broadcasts, while the athletes focus on the week ahead that begins a four-month season. Ready or not, the 2006-2007 biathlon season is here.
TD Banknorth is the title sponsor of the US Biathlon Team. Lapua, adidas®, the Hilton Family of Hotels and Exel Ski Poles are supporting sponsors of the US Biathlon Team.