Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) is in a unique situation. She will compete in the Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championships that open here Saturday and then compete in the Biathlon World Championships just one week later in Ostersund, Sweden.
This will be only the second time (first was Ntala Skinner in 1993) that a junior level woman from the US has qualified for the senior Championships. Making the team for Ostersund was, “not planned or expected,” according to Spector. “I knew after I did well at the North American Cups in November and December that it was a possibility and I could not let up in the deciding Europa Cup competition in Langdorf, Germany. In the end, making the team was a nice surprise.”
The 20-year-old Spector is a veteran of three previous Youth and Junior Championships, with her best result being a ninth place finish in the Youth Sprint in 2006. At the same time, she is inexperienced at the next (World Cup) level. In fact, her two competitions at Langdorf were only her second Europa Cup experience. Accordingly, she views the Ostersund competitions as “a big stepping stone,” in her biathlon career.
Now, she is focusing on the Youth and Junior Championships, where she will compete in the Sprint/Pursuit this weekend as well as the Individual and Relay competitions next week.
Qualifying for both teams puts Spector’s biathlon career into fast forward. To reach this new level of competitiveness, she stepped back from her studies at Dartmouth, where she plans to major in biology, focusing on genetics. She explains, “Last year, I was taking a full course load and competing, but was not at my best (her top result was 42nd in the Individual at World Juniors). It was hard to train and go to school full-time. The big thing was lack of recovery, as I was up late studying and in the afternoon instead of taking a nap for recovery, I was doing school work.”
This year, she skipped both the fall and winter terms, to train and race. She said her parents have been ‘very supportive” in her decision. “They never push me, but want me to be happy and successful in whatever I do.”
Spector does see a correlation between full-time education and being a full-time athlete. “Both school and biathlon force you to be well organized, and focused. At the same time, you have to apply both yourself and your mind (to what you are doing).”
With the Youth and Junior World championships just two days away, Junior National Coach Vladimir Cervenka is happy to see Spector competing at higher level. “We always knew Laura could ski fast,” he commented, “but now her shooting is much better.”
Spector, who trained at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Fort Kent, attributes her improved shooting to a lot of “slow-fire accuracy shooting in the summer, which broke my shooting back down to the basics. Once I had more confidence, we added the intensity.”
As in education, Spector and her US teammates are just two days away from exam time in the Chiemgau Arena in Ruhpolding. The Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championships open with the Sprint competitions for both men and women on that day. Even though she will focus on achieving a “top 15” finish here, it will be hard for Laura Spector not to dream a bit about also competing in Ostersund against all of the stars of biathlon.
Live streaming video coverage of all of the competitions at the Youth and Junior World Championships competitions as well as archived highlights of the World Cup season, is available by clicking the athlete photo at the top of the news column at www.usbiathlon.org.
The United States Biathlon Association is the National Governing Body for the sport of biathlon in the United States as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union. The US Biathlon Association supports the US Biathlon Team and development of the sport on all levels within the United States.
TD Banknorth is the title sponsor of the US Biathlon Team. Lapua, adidas®, and Exel Ski Poles are supporting sponsors of the US Biathlon Team.