Swede Bjorn Ferry won his first individual Olympic medal in Vancouver, capturing gold in the pursuit race. He has three career World Cup victories and two relay medals, both from mixed relay events: gold at the 2007 World Championships in Antholz, Italy, and bronze at the 2010 World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Ferry is also the only biathlete we know who is married to a world champion arm-wrestler. Can he continue his winning ways this season? FasterSkier caught up with Ferry in Muonio, Finland, to find out.
FasterSkier: There aren’t any biathlon races here in Muonio, right?
Bjorn Ferry: Yes. We will just have a test race inside the team.
FS: So where are you starting out your season?
BF: It will be in Ostersund [Sweden] like always, at the first World Cup. The first weekend in December.
FS: Do you ever jump in any ski races?
BF: No…it would be fun. They have a skiing race for the Swedish team, to make the team for the first World Cup in Gallivare, but I have no time. It is too far to drive. But some from my team will go to that race.
FS: How will they do?
BF: Very good, in the top five.
FS: What are your goals for the season?
BF: I think the overall World Cup will be a big goal for me. And also, of course, the World Championships.
FS: Is it hard to stay motivated the year after an Olympic year, when you’ve had so much success?
BF: It’s different. That was my first individual medal, so a gold medal, it’s great. It’s a new situation – it’s a lot more media, it’s a lot more questions from everybody. But I also feel more confident in myself. Now I know that I have the guts to do it. I can do it, I can win. So that makes me feel sure.
FS: Have you been able to get a lot more sponsorships after your gold medal?
BF: I have a better situation now, compared to last year. It’s not millions, but it’s much better. I think I have doubled my sponsor money.
FS: Who do you see as your biggest competition this year on the World Cup?
BF: Well, it will be the French team – [they are] becoming much stronger every year. Martin Fourcade, and Simon Fourcade, and also Vincent Jay – the French team, they will be strong. They were strong last year, but I think they can make a small step this year also. And of course, the Norwegians, the Russians, the Germans, but I think the French team will be hard to beat.
FS: What about Tim Burke?
BF: Yes, of course, he had a good season last year, at least before the Olympics. It was a step for him, I don’t know if he won any races, but he was in the yellow bib. Mentally too, he can do it, you know? He has a Swedish coach [Per Nilsson] – he’s a good coach. He will be good, I think.
FS: Is biathlon better than skiing? Why?
BF: It is much more fun to watch on television, so this is why in the TV ratings biathlon is more popular all over Europe.
FS: Not in the U.S., unfortunately.
BF: Not in the U.S., but I think it would be if they would just show it on TV. Biathlon is more fun, but I like skiing also. I was a skier from the beginning, so I like it.
FS: When did you switch to biathlon?
BF: The year before Salt Lake City, in autumn of 2001.
FS: So that was a quick transition!
BF: Yeah, it was my first year in biathlon, and I went to the Olympics, and was like, wow… (mimes looking around).
FS: The World Cup is coming to the United States this year. Will you be competing?
BF: Yes. My plan is to go to all the World Cup races, since I am focusing on the overall World Cup. Of course, the races just before the World Championships, you have to think about a little.
FS: Are you excited to come to the U.S.?
BF: Yes, I want to go there and win something!
FS: The Swedish ski team has a jet. Do you have one?
BF: No, but we will have a truck this year. A big Volvo truck. Hopefully, they will come here some day and show it to us. You know, the Swedish skiers have one, and the Norwegian biathletes have this truck for waxing. This is a big step forward for us.
FS: Maybe someday you will have a jet…
BF: No, no, no private jet. I don’t think so. In five or six years, nobody will have it. This is my opinion.
FS: I see a lot of biathletes skiing with one pole. What’s up with that?
BF: It was a trend some years ago – I think it started with the Czech team, then the German team, then we started and the Swedish skiers followed. It’s like, you have a better feeling for your technique. You go with one pole, and it’s easier to find your mistakes, because you can’t compensate the same way as if you had two poles. If you do something wrong, then you have a twist.
FS: I’ve never seen it in the U.S.; there, we either have two poles or no poles.
BF: Yes, [with one pole] it’s much easier to feel how you make the power. If you use it on the left side, but then you change and you go without a pole on this dominant side, you have to say, ‘then how do I work it?’
FS: Would you consider yourself a better skier or shooter?
BF: Well, my strong side as a biathlete is that I can do both skiing and shooting…
FS: Yes, obviously.
BF: But if I compare to others on the biathlon circuit, then my strong side is the shooting. It was me and Emil Hegle Svendsen who had the best shooting percentage last year. I’ve been in the top the last three or four years, at least to hit the targets. I’m not the quickest shooter that you see, but I hit the most targets, and that’s of course important.
FS: Would you ever challenge one of your competitors to a poker match, like Hellner and Northug did?
BF: (laughs) We started this poker trend five or six years ago, but now I’ve stopped with poker. We have [Mattias] Nilsson on the team – he is a very good poker player. But no. I had a dream to go to Las Vegas, but now it’s not my dream anymore.
FS: They are considering doing a mixed relay in the next Olympics. Do you have any thoughts about that?
BF: It would have been a great event for the Swedish team if it had been in Vancouver, but we don’t know for Sochi. We don’t know how long Helena [Jonsson] and Anna Carin [Olofsson-Zidek] will do biathlon. But it’s a good competition, it’s fun. Hopefully it will come into the Olympic program.
FS: Can you beat your wife in an arm-wrestling match?
BF: (grins sheepishly) No. In the beginning of my career, but…I am pretty strong, you know. With my left arm, then I have a little chance, but the right arm, no, no way.
FS: I didn’t know arm-wrestling was a championship sport.
BF: Yes, it has been since the 1970’s. She has won the World Championship seven times, in the 60 to 65 kilos class, so she is not big – but I have no chance.
FS: So you have to win seven World Championships in biathlon now.
BF: I guess I will never be the best in the family.
FS: Thanks so much for your time!
BF: Yes, thank you.