Revving the engine to the US Biathlon team van past Italian road signs and the distant Dolomite peaks of northeastern Italy. Swimming and fishing off Slovenia’s southwestern shores. Rollerskiing the streets of Östersund, Sweden, while under the watchful eye of your coach. Competing in Norway’s famed Blink rollerski festival against local favorites like Ole Einar Bjørndalen and the backdrop of an exuberant crowd.
With six weeks in Europe behind them and one more to go, these are only a few of the adventures US Biathlon teammates Leif Nordgren and Sean Doherty have accomplished this summer during their seven week, self-made training camp they’ve hashtagged: “#theadventuresofskidandpants.”
“On the team we all have little nicknames that we call each other; one of Sean’s nicknames is skid, and one of mine is pants,” Nordgren explained in an email, adding that he and Doherty have been good friends for a few years now. “There’s stories behind both names but they’re both quite long. It had a funny ring to it, and all of our teammates thought it was pretty funny as a hashtag, so we kept it going.”
The spark for global travel and training ignited after Nordgren and Doherty spent most of last summer training at their home base in Lake Placid, N.Y. Desiring something different this offseason — and knowing that the US Biathlon’s European training camp would once again take place in Ruhpolding and Oberhof, Germany, from Aug. 21 to Sept. 11 — the duo decided to pack their bags early and begin their adventures abroad five weeks before the start of camp. The greatest gain they expected by leaving the U.S. was the opportunity to training with other teams.
“Last summer, we were kind of stuck training in Lake Placid a lot,” Nordgren said on the phone from Ruhpolding. “So with all that time in Lake Placid last year, we wanted to expand our boundaries a little bit, to get out of Lake Placid, come to Europe, see what other teams are doing for training, jump in with them when we could, but mostly just get out and experience new stimuli and train in other cool places with new people.”
The two other US Biathlon national team members, Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, opted to stay in the states for most of the summer.
“Tim is in the process of building a house right now, Lowell just had a baby girl back in June,” , Nordgren wrote in an email. “So both of those guys had things to do back at home that kept them from wanting to be gone in Europe for half the summer.”
Nordgren and Doherty’s seven-week training block began with Blink, three days of various cross-country and biathlon rollerski competitions, from July 27-30 in Sandnes, Norway. This year’s events included an elite biathlon mass start and an elite biathlon sprint, as well as an uphill climb. Both Nordgren and Doherty competed in all three elite events. In a lighthearted, pre-race “shooting duels” competition before the mass start, Nordgren reached the final and ranked 11th overall. In the sprint the next day, both Nordgren and Doherty made it to the quarterfinals.
“The first week we were up in Norway at the Blink rollerski festival, which was a good opportunity to get some high-level races in with a lot of Norwegians, a couple Swedes, a couple Germans, and a lot of the French national team too,” Nordgren said. “Unfortunately neither of us had very good races there, but the experience was good all the same.”
The next destination for Nordgren and Doherty was Östersund, where they spent two weeks training with US Biathlon Men’s Coach Jonas Johansson in his hometown, as well as a few former and current Swedish Biathlon national-team members.
“There is a team called Team Östersund and it’s made up of a lot of national-team athletes and former national-team athletes that have kind of declined their spot on the national team to train more on their own,” Nordgren explained. “So we did a couple of training sessions with them.”
Saying goodbye to Scandinavia, the two flew to Munich, Germany, hopped in a team van and drove down to Antholz, Italy, for another week of training.
“The team has a van here that stays in Germany where most of our staff are from and our manager let us take that for the weeks we were [in Italy],” Nordgren said.
“One of our goals [in Antholz] was to train a little bit with the Italian team,” he added. “Unfortunately, I think they had just gotten back from a training camp and so a lot of them were a little tired, so none of the intensity training sessions really aligned like we thought they were going to. Those workouts we went ahead and did by ourselves. That was kind of a bummer, but again it was nice to get a change of scenery, and Antholz is a beautiful place to train in the summer.”
After Antholz, they took a three-day break before meeting back up with the rest of their teammates for two final weeks with the US Biathlon national team in Germany.
“We went down to the coast in [Piran] Slovenia, which is about a three-hour drive from Antholz,” Nordgren said. “We met a couple friends down there who hooked us up with one of their friends one day to do a little fishing and swimming … After that we came up here to Ruhpolding and met up with the team, and it’s been kind of normal training back with the team since then.”
Back in Germany, Nordgren acknowledged that much of his and Doherty’s ease in travel and accommodation along the way derived from their team budget.
“The team was able to set aside a little bit of a budget for us,” he said. “At Blink, the organizers put us up at one of the hotels. In Östersund, we actually stayed right at the venue at Camp Södergren. They have a couple of apartments there that they normally rent out to university students during the school year and they rented us one for two weeks … and then when we were down in Italy, we had a hotel.”
With about a week left of their adventure abroad, Nordgren is satisfied with the training he’s logged, but is also looking forward to returning back to Lake Placid. The final camp on the national team’s schedule before race season will take place in Canmore, Alberta at the end of October.
“I’m not sure I would do seven weeks away again, but it’s been a good time,” Nordgren said. “Sean were talking about if we were to do it again, I think we would probably go like one less place. So maybe [go] from Norway straight down to Italy, or something like that, just to be a little more stationary and get a feel for one place a little more because there has been quite a lot of travel. But both of us, I know, have had a great time even though it has been a long time away.”
Doherty could not be reached for comment.
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Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.