Last season started solidly enough for Canadian biathlete Megan Tandy: in the opening World Cup race in Östersund, Sweden, the two-time Olympian finished 25th in the pursuit. In the points, and something to build on.
By the end of the season, things looked very different. Tandy fractured a bone in her wrist just before she was set to compete in the World Cups in Canmore, Alberta. That knocked her out of the rest of the season — and because she had not yet met the criteria for athlete funding (“carding”) through Sport Canada, threw her future as a biathlete into doubt.
But come spring, her medical exception was granted and Tandy was back to being funded.
“The carding doesn’t nearly cover the costs of being a full time athlete but it definitely helps pay the rent, and without it I would have likely retired,” she explained in an interview last week.
By the time she regained her carding, she was also able to train again. Life was back on track.
“I had a hard cast for almost 9 weeks so my arm looked was a bit on the pale skinny side for awhile, but I recovered well and have had no pain or other problems with my wrist since May,” Tandy wrote in an email. “The recovery process mostly just involved a lot of patience and playing with my hand strengthening rubber web or squeeze ball a few times a day. I had to ease into rollerskiing with my left pole slowly, but after a few weeks everything felt perfect!”
Based in Germany for the last several years, Tandy also has a new living situation. She is splitting her time between Klingenthal, where her ex-husband and son alive, and Siegsdorf, where she trains at the major German biathlon base in Ruhpolding with other international athletes constantly coming and going.
The previous summer she had been primarily in Klingenthal, which has few biathlon facilities. Between the ability to do more specific training and setting up house with her boyfriend, U.S. Biathlon wax tech Federico Fontana, Tandy sees herself having a much-improved situation.
“When I have my son then my #1 priority is being Mom,” she explained. “And when my son is with his father I can train at the world-class facility alongside many international athletes in Ruhpolding. It has truly taken some time to build a life for myself again and put things back together after the separation and custody battle more than 2 years ago – but right now this is the happiest, healthiest version of me since at least 8 years! … Siegsdorf reminds me little bit of [British Columbia] with the Bavarian alps and Chiemsee Lake right here. I can actually go for a 40km rollerski loop right from my driveway!”
She also trained with the Canadian National Team during the off-season for the first time in years.
“I was able to train in Canmore at our home training center for 3 weeks this July and have been following the national team training program since then,” she wrote. “Between Dropbox, Sprongo and Skype, long-distance coaching can offer a lot and I think this has been something really positive for me.”
The national team is also happy with the arrangement. Tandy has primarily been working with National Team Coach Roddy Ward.
“Our hope was to provide Megan some guidance as we believe she has the potential for top results (which she began to show 2 seasons ago) and even more importantly, to be a contributing member of a medal winning relay team- that is the big goal for the women’s program,” Ward wrote in an email.
In the 2014-2015 season, Tandy had a breakthrough and notched four top-15 finishes on the World Cup.
“I have tried to help her with a training structure and some training ideas,” Ward continued. “Ultimately, given the distance and unique training environment/opportunities, she still drives her own day to day training. We have also setup some monitoring and have made some positive interventions. From what I can tell it’s been going well for Megan. She has stayed healthier than normal and has actually set up some great training opportunities so she is not alone. These include 2 camps with us, a camp with the US team, a stint back home in Prince George and some training with German and British athletes in Ruhpolding.”
Tandy joined the U.S. team for their summer training camp in Oberhof, where she was able to get in some on-snow time in the ski tunnel. She also joined the women for a relay effort at German National Championships.
“I had just packed my bags to leave when the women’s coach, Jonne [Kahkonen] asked me to race because one of the U.S. girls was sick,” Tandy wrote. “It was super fun to race, great to shoot under pressure again, but I was pretty tired and was not happy with the ski performance. All in all I actually feel like I am in better shape this fall than I have been for 3 years – I am feeling good, but I haven’t had a lot of opportunity for race pace comparison up until now.”
That will change. Tandy is in Canada for Frozen Thunder, to get some training time with her team and coaches as well as to compete in selection races for the World Cup. She is pre-selected to start the season on the second-tier IBU Cup circuit, but wants to grab one of the free spots to race on sport’s bigger stage.
Thinking back on her injury at the end of the season, it seems like Tandy has come a long way.
“I can honestly say there where some sad moments home alone in March with no snow while all the teams were racing!” she admitted. “I used the down-time to finish up some school work, which was good, and I also think I was lucky that the recovery period was in the spring so I was healthy and training normally for the whole summer.”
Eventually, Tandy sees herself helping and managing other athletes.
“I am have completed 3 out of 4 semesters of an MBA in Sport Management,” she wrote. “So right now I have achieved a Sport Management Certificate from the University of Bayreuth and am planning on completing my masters post season. Slowly but surely seems to be my approach to education!”
But for now, the focus is all on her own performance.
“Training has been much better and much more consistent this year,” she wrote.
And her coach, Ward, agreed.
“Megan has been very motivated and working hard on those areas she wanted to improve this year,” Ward wrote. “I’m looking forward to seeing her in a week.”
We asked Tandy to give our ’17 Questions for 2017′ a go. Here are his responses:
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?
Setting up a second ‘’home-away-from-home’’ in Siegsdorf, GER – best decision ever!
2. Biggest change in your training?
A lot more rollerski hours….and less time on my beloved road bike.
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
Ski technique, I still have a lot of work to do but good changes are happening!
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
Roddy Ward and the Canadian National Team (for the first time in 8 years!)
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
Home to Prince George, BC with my son this August – there is nothing better than family (and getting to be the little princess again…at least for the first 5 days or so…)
6. Favorite cross-training?
Road biking, although I didn’t ride as much as usual this year.
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
BBQing….seriously, there were so many relaxed BBQ evenings with the kids playing on the trampoline or on the garden this summer!
8. Song that was your jam this summer?
I really started enjoying some German music! Bavaria by Voxxclub or Hulapalu by Andreas Gabalier
9. All-time favorite race moment?
World Cup 3 in Pokljuka, Slovenia 2014….my first ever world cup 20/20 shooting and moving from 41st to 14th.
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
Well, I basically live in Europe, but still….haha, I always pack my boots & shoes first.
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
I think Hochfilzen WCH will be amazing but I am pretty excited for the pre-Olympic World Cup in PyeongChang too.
12. Who will win the men’s and women’s World Cup titles this year?
Maybe Franziska Hildebrand! – I really enjoyed training a bit with her this fall, I think she is in good shape.
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?
Tricky….I think I need a whole page to answer this one 🙂
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
The sprint is too short for me…haha – I want a 12km sprint!!
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
It was a rest day so I had the epic traditional Barvarian breakfast at the Schuhbeck bakery in Ruhpolding with Federico: weisswurst (white sausage), sweet mustard and a pretzel. Although I had a coffee instead of the traditional wheat beer at 10am!!
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
Retired from biathlon and working in sport – supporting athletes and healthy people one way or another!
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
A grandma hopefully!
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Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.