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The team behind the team: The Technicians

Tue, Feb  9, 2010 - By Viktoria Franke

After the bulk of the winter is behind us you know the team. You know the Burke's, Teela's or Johnson's of the biathlon world. But their way to the Olympic Winter Games 2010 was paved by other people as well. This series will introduce you to the "team behind the team". Those people, you seldom see on TV and never in the result lists. But their work is crucial for the success in Vancouver.

Today's feature: The Wax Technicians - Andreas Emslander, Petr Garabik and Christian Sieler

You can be the best biathlete in the world – when you have the wrong skis, you won’t be on the top. Years ago that might have been possible but nowadays waxing seems like its own science. The US Biathlon Team consists of three main wax technicians with the rest of the staff helping out whenever possible.

Chief Technician Andreas Emslander, Christian Sieler and Petr Garabik  - three different characters, three very different stories. But all three of them make sure that the US athletes can compete on top of their game.

Wax Technicians

Andreas Emslander cross-country skied until he was 25 back home in Bavarian Mittenwald. Right after finishing his career he didn’t think at all of working in the sport in the near future. Instead he started his education watchmaker, a job he later pursued in Munich. But once again it was Bernd Eisenbichler who had other ideas for Emslander’s future. “We were friends ever since competing in the same sport so Bernd just asked me one day if I could help him a few times with the US skis.” What began as a temporary job soon became a permanent position. “As young skiers we often had to prepare the skis ourselves so over the years you gain enough experience to supply good skis not just to yourself but also to other athletes”

Christian Sieler was the latest addition to the waxing staff. Until 2005 the 28-year-old competed in sprint competitions for Germany in the Cross Country World Cup. Next to working for the US Team Sieler is employed by the German Federal Police. “Bernd and I were in the same training group back when we were cross country skiers so of course I wanted to support him and the team when he asked me to work with the US athletes.”

Petr Garabik is the most experienced in the waxing team – at least when it comes to Olympic Winter Games. The Czech former biathlete took part in three OWG so far – 1994, 1998 and 2002. Twelve years of Biathlon World Championships add to his experience. Already back in 1985 ‘Gara’ started with biathlon, his career highlights were the 2nd place in the Ruhpolding World Cup 1994 as well as the 5th place with the relay in the Salt Lake City Games 2002.

Early Work Start

For those three the work already starts five hours before the actual race. “We need to prepare the skis, the test skis, collect more data about the snow and then analyze everything. What wax would we need for which skis? All that takes some time”, Chief Technician Emslander explains. Three to four skis are selected per athlete before they arrive. “Then we go on the track together with the athletes to see which one works best for them.” As soon as the athletes know which ski they want for the competition, the wax preparation starts. “It’s not until ten minutes before the start that the skis are done. Through that we can react better if there’s a weather change.”

During the race the technicians are on the track to support the athletes with times, drinks or shooting or skiing advices. “Afterwards the hard work starts as we have to collect all the skis, clean them, clean the wax cabin and prepare everything for the next day already.”

Tough Conditions in Vancouver

In Vancouver their work will be crucial, as the snow conditions there are nothing like the ones in Europe. “Since it’s so close to the sea the conditions can be really difficult and change any second” But the US Team is prepared quite well: Four times the wax technicians have been there to do the much needed analyzing for the Olympics. “I think we have a pretty good knowledge of the snow there. If we get an advantage from that we’ll see after the first competitions!” Emslander says.

Sieler is sure: “Those will be great Olympics. I am really looking forward to it and I know the athletes can do great there!”