While Susan Dunklee and her U.S. Biathlon teammates Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke were finishing up the three-day Blink rollerski festival in Norway, two other women on U.S. Biathlon’s A-team — Annelies Cook and Hannah Dreissigacker — had a little business to take care of in Finland.
To close their Finnish training camp, most of which took place near the 2015 World Championships venue at Kontiolahti, Cook and Dreissigacker competed in a 5-kilometer running biathlon race. Cook won and Dreissigacker placed second.
In an email, U.S. women’s coach Jonne Kähkönen, previously the head coach of the Finnish biathlon team, explained that the road race was “a bit different sport, but makes for a good training.” The nature of running then shooting made it challenging, along with the relentless heat his team experienced while in Scandinavia.
We asked Kähkönen more about the camp and what’s next for them in Sweden.
FasterSkier: How was it being in Finland and working with one of your former athletes, Kaisa Mäkäräinen, again? How did this come about?
Jonne Kähkönen: I talked about a possible joined camp with Kaisa at the end of the winter and we finalized the details in the beginning of the summer. We had already decided to do this camp on the [World Championships] venue, but it was great for us to have her join in. Kaisa did all the days of our camp together with us leading up to the departure to Blink with Susan.
FS: What are your thoughts on the World Championships course? How does it suit your athletes?
JK: I would say any course is a good fit if the athletes are in shape.. 🙂 This course has some specific features to it like the ‘wall’ climb and a long flat section before and after the shooting. These are the things that we will take into consideration with our training, but the most important is to improve the overall level of the athletes. Also the shooting range can be a bit tricky in Kontiolahti, so it was good for our ladies to have a solid camp there. We have had really good racing here the last couple of times at the [IBU World Cup] races, so I feel like it is a good fit for our athletes.
FS: Were most of your training sessions there?
JK: We spent most of the camp right in Kontiolahti to have as many sessions at the venue as possible. We did a couple of sessions elsewhere though, one of them was an uphill interval session in Koli, the highest point in southern Finland. The athletes did roller ski intensity up the paved road.
FS: What was it like having Susan, Lowell and Tim at Blink?
JK: We unfortunately [were] only able to check the live splits — don’t get the Norwegian TV here in Finland. I think having three athletes invited to the races this year speaks a lot about our team and the level where they are right now — especially with the results they have produced now in the racing.
FS: What do their results there — with two podiums between Lowell and Tim — indicate?
JK: Blink results [are] just a part of summer training because everyone is in the middle of a tough training block. At the same time though, it is good to see that we are in the mix and it should boost the confidence to sure, seeing that they can be there just the same as everyone else. For us the main goal was to have contact with the field during the summer already, since we typically won’t see the international athletes during the summer that much. In the past we have had some joined time trials with some other athletes, but it was good to have this level of competition with a full stadium of spectators as well.
FS: Who will be in Torsby, Sweden, at the snow-tunnel camp this week?
JK: I will be in Torsby with all the three women, also the men will be there with full staff. The goal for the third week of the camp is to have a few good sessions on snow in the tunnel, working on the technique and also doing shooting with the longer skis on in the tunnel. For the shooting we will have the added challenge of having the Swedish team with us there for some of the shooting sessions.
FS: Any more stops after that? Is the team headed to Jericho, Vt., for the North American Cup rollerski races in two weekends?
JK: No other stops, back in the US after Torsby and all of our athletes will be in Jericho, provided that they are in full health.
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.