There’s nothing wrong with getting a little outside perspective — at least that’s how Biathlon Canada’s national-team head coach Matthias Ahrens and his staff sees it.
Ahrens explained in an email that he’s been trying for years to bring experts from around the world to observe his team and help enhance its athletes’ skiing and/or shooting. He finally pinned down Norwegian shooting coach Joar Himle, and from June 8-14, Himle worked with the Canadians at a shooting camp in Canmore, Alberta.
With experience coaching Olympic gold medalists like Ole Einar Bjørndalen and Halvard Hanevold, Himle was also the Norwegian team’s shooting coach until 2011. He currently works contractually for the national team as well as other athletes, including Germany’s Miriam Gössner.
And while Biathlon Canada works with in-house specialists on a daily basis, including physiologists and physiotherapists, “over the past few seasons we have also brought in more outside expertise for shorter periods of time,” coach Roddy Ward wrote on his blog.
“We have had a ski technique specialist and a functional movement and technique specialist, both from Sweden,” Ward wrote. “Recently, we brought in a shooting specialist from Norway. Each time I have been impressed and satisfied with what our team has got out of this work and I have grown to really appreciate bringing in someone new to work with the team.”
“It has been very educational and motivational for our athletes but also us coaches,” Ahrens noted. “Sometimes it is even not anything new than what we already are coaching but it might be presented in a different way and therefore clicks with the athlete. But it also gives us some insight how other Nations train and where our strength or shortfalls are.”
“Biathlon Canada has been great that they don’t let their ego get in the way of making us better athletes,” national-team member Rosanna Crawford wrote in an email. “We know that there are other countries who are better and stronger than us and if we can work with them then that will make us stronger and better!”
Crawford explained that the shooting camp with Himle involved mostly one-on-one consultations, along with a couple of group sessions.
“I worked on positional stuff in prone mostly and each athlete had things they wanted to work on,” she wrote. “He was great to work with and you never felt stupid asking him questions about shooting.”
One drill Crawford found “both interesting and frustrating” was a shooting exercise done at the end of a shooting-specific workout. It’s simple enough: shoot ’til you miss.
- Take a box of 50 bullets and try to hit every single shot. “You can start over if you don’t make it past 15 hits, but after that as soon as you miss you’re done,” she wrote. “I really feel like I learned a lot and am exciting to implement theses changes into training!”
- Do 50 shots for prone and then 50 shots for standing.
In all the Canadian team fired about 220 to 240 bullets during that drill and was on the range for about an hour.
“After we were done we had strength that day, so went to the gym to warm up as soon as you finished,” she added.
And while Himle has gone back to Norway, the team can continue to pick up new tips from Swiss biathletes Benjamin Weger, Ivan Joller and Serafin Wiestner — who are training in Canmore for three weeks.
All three men competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Weger, 24, has notched multiple World Cup podiums in his career and made two Olympics and three World Championships. Joller, 30, competed at five World Championships and Wiestner, 23, represented Switzerland at four consecutive Youth/Junior World Championships.
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.