Ruhpolding, Germany: The Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championships, undoubtedly the highlight of the year for aspiring World Cup biathletes opens here today.
Ruhpolding’s Chiemgau Arena is an appropriate venue for these Championships. It is both a part of biathlon history, having hosted biathlon competitions since 1976, and a name that defines biathlon excitement. Just two weeks ago, almost 90,000 spectators rocked the stadium with cheers as Michael Greis won two the Sprint and Pursuit. Although the crowds will not match those of the World Cup, the competitions will be just as exciting and compelling. Virtually every top biathlete in the sport has competed at “World Juniors.” It is truly the stepping-stone to the next level.
The 2008 Championships will open with Sprint competitions in all categories tomorrow. The schedule is as follows: Junior Men at 8:50 AM, Youth Men at 11:00 AM, Junior Women at 1:30 AM, and the Youth Women at 2:30. All times CET, which is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Pursuit competitions will follow on Sunday, with a rest day on Monday and further competitions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. The 382 young men and women from 35 nations will have a busy week here!
The US Biathlon Team has 13 athletes competing this year, who range from those who have competed in these annual Championships since 2003 to a few who are “rookies.”
“Our Youth Men’s team is the most inexperienced, with three 15-year olds Ethan Dreissigacker (Morrisville, VT), Raleigh Goessling (Duluth, MN), and Preston Butler (Marion, MA), all with great potential. In three years, they will be the core of a great junior team,” commented National Junior Coach Vladimir Cervenka, “At the same time, Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) is one of the top Youth Men in the field.
The current Junior Men are all veterans with Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) and Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) leading the pack. Currier placed 10th in the 10k Sprint at the Europa Cup in Langdorf, Germany. “We simplified Russell’s shooting training recently and it has helped him tremendously,” commented Gary Colliander of the Maine Winter Sports Center, who is the Assistant National Junior Coach.
Both Colliander and Cervenka feel the strongest group for the US will be the Junior Women. Laura Spector (Lenox, MA) has qualified for the Biathlon World Championships with some strong performances this season. Nevertheless, she is closely followed by Brynden Manbeck (Grand Rapids, MN) and Meagan Toussaint (Madawaska, ME). “All of these girls are shooting well and will give us a strong relay,” Cervenka added.
In the Youth women’s group, Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME) dominated the US Youth and Junior Trials. She is expected to lead that group which also includes Addie Byrne (Bovey, MN), and Grace Boutot (Fort Kent, ME). In summing up the US Team prospects, Colliander commented, “This is collectively, probably the best team we have had since 2002.”
Over the next week, the US expects some solid if not great results. Each athlete has his goals, but whatever the outcome, each will be able to say they competed at the legendary venue in Ruhpolding. Probably some will be back here someday to hear the roar of the huge World Cup crowds one day.
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.