LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Imagine taking your first shots on a biathlon range one week and being named to a national development, or even better, an ‘X’ squad a couple months later.
That’s the reality that a select few out of 11 at the U.S. Biathlon Association (USBA) Talent ID and Recruiting Camp (held June 23-26) could face when the USBA staff makes its picks in the next few weeks. Make the next round and be invited to a Talent Group Camp back in the same place, Lake Placid and its Olympic Training Center facilities, in late August and find your fit within the team.
In April, USBA named three juniors to its X team: Anna Kubek, Maddie Phaneuf and Sean Doherty. Kubek opted for college, but Phaneuf and Doherty, along with anyone else named to what’s expected to be a small squad, earn residency in Lake Placid and training-camp days with national-team coaches. New development coach Jean Paquet, who will move to Lake Placid and start in earnest in August, will head up this team along with the national development group, which already includes Clare Egan and Brian Halligan. Development group skiers will be invited to training camps, where they’ll also receive coaching support.
The difference between the two development tiers generally boils down to experience and proven results.
“The X team, we’re looking for athletes out of two categories,” said USBA Chief of Sport Bernd Eisenbichler, who made the trip over from Germany to oversee the tryout camp. “The first one is our young juniors or youth athletes who have proved through excellent results at Youth or Junior World Championships, we’re looking for probably top-eight result there, like Sean had and Maddie had … and then we also look to find excellent cross-country skiers that are willing and want to change over to biathlon. If we find someone who has a good handle on the rifle and wants to go that route we have the chance to … name them to this X team.”
The development group could either be someone who achieved a top 20 at Youth or Junior World Championships, or “a really good cross-country skier that wants to change to biathlon or has big progress in biathlon already,” Eisenbichler said.
“The whole idea was to not cut on the junior level in America for biathletes so we’re still supporting them in these different two teams, but to really open it up for these cross-country athletes that are willing and have potential to do biathlon on a high level. … What we’re looking for here is athletes we can work for the future with.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.