Ostersund, Sweden, August 22. â€œAn important part of our training plan, where we hope to see improvements in both skiing and shooting from all of the athletesâ€ is how National Team Coach Per Nilsson described the three competitions this weekend at the site of the 2008 Biathlon World Championships.
The three rollerski competitions begin with a cross-country race on Friday evening, followed by a Biathlon Sprint on Saturday and a Biathlon Pursuit on Sunday.
The competitions come in the middle of a month-long training camp in Sweden for the US Biathlon Team. Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK), Lanny, and Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO) spent the first part of the month in Nilsson’s hometown of Solleftea. Mild weather with â€œrain only on the rest days,â€ according to Nilsson helped the group get through the mid-summer two-a-day training block.
This week the group shifted here to Ostersund, for physical testing, some long distance workouts, and lots of shooting drills at the World Championship facility. â€œWe trained very hard before we came here (Ostersund),â€ Nilsson continued, â€œand we will not do anything special to prepare for the competitions, in terms of extra preparation or rest. With all of our good training so far this season, we hope to see some improvements over our results last year.â€
Tim Burke, who ended last season ranked 25th in the Overall World Cup, an all-time US best looks forward to the competitions this week. â€œThis is a great way to evaluate your training at this stage of the season. This weekend has been marked on my calendar for along time. Unfortunately, I caught a cold earlier this week, so the results may not be what I hoped for earlier. Nevertheless, it will be fun and I will just see how things go.â€
Coach Mikael Lofgren added, â€œIt is really important for the athletes to have real competition here. Until now, we have only competed amongst ourselves. It will be good to see how we have progressed.â€ The real competition includes some of the best biathletes on the World Cup Circuit. Besides the Swedish Team led by Olympic Gold Medalist Anna Carin Olofsson and teammate Bjorn Ferry, who ranked seventh in Overall World Cup, Norway will bring its strong Women’s Team. Tora Berger, 14th in the Overall World Cup and Ann Kristin Flatland, fifth in the Sprint at the 2007 Biathlon World Championships head this new generation of Norwegian women after the recent retirements of Linda Grubben and Liv Grete Poiree. Switzerland with Matthias Simmen who had several top 10 finishes last season, along with Great Britain, and Finland will provide plenty of competition for the US Team. The Organizers expect over 130 competitors this week.
After the weekend of competitions, the US athletes will move on to Lofgren’s hometown, Torsby, Sweden to complete the final leg of this training camp. In Torsby, the team will train on snow for the first time since early May, at the indoor ski tunnel.
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.