Last week, Johnny Spillane announced his retirement after well over a decade on the U.S. Nordic Combined Team. The four-time Olympian explains why he decided to call it a career before the 2014 Winter Games.
With the Olympics looming, the U.S. Biathlon Association cut its national team to the smallest it has been in years, with no new members and only one athlete under the age of 25; development was cut almost completely. President and CEO Max Cobb hopes that good performances in Sochi will be a rising tide that lifts all boats in his sport.
“It’s beautiful and it’s very strange,” U.S. biathlete Annelies Cook said of the new Olympic venue in Sochi, which sits just next to the cross country trails on the slopes of a steep mountain chain. From racing to the athlete village, from unusual rules about rifles to pleasant surprises with washing machines, biathletes are learning what life will be like at next year’s Games.
While Martin Fourcade of France joked that now he has his gold medal from Sochi, Tim Burke finished the day with important insight, too: namely, that he can ski among the fastest times on the trails that will hold Olympic competition next winter. With only one missed shot in the 20 k race, the American made the top five for the second competition in a row.
Skiers and jumpers tested out the Sochi trails – quite successfully for the U.S. and Canada; biathletes finished up World Youth and Junior Championships with another medal for Sean Doherty and two Canadian top-tens; Americans turned to longer marathon racing at the Boulder Mountain Tour and Craftsbury Marathon; Canadians mini-toured through Eastern Championships.
After a short break in the calendar, World Cup action begins again on Friday in Sochi, Russia, with a triple-header. More than the usual amount of intrigue surrounds the upcoming events; in addition to being the first World Cup in almost two weeks, this will be the first international cross-country event to take place at the Olympic venue for the 2014 Games.