Press release from the International Biathlon Union.
“The Americans probably travel the most of any teams, along with the Canadians” explained US Biathlon Coach Per Nilsson. Last year the US team had a seven-week-long training camp in Europe followed by three weeks of training in Utah right. The athletes were far from home for most of the year. However, the approach this year is different. As most of the team members come from the northeastern USA, many of them can actually stay at home during the first training camp for the team, which took place in Lake Placid, New York. Tanja Ohlson visited the team in Lake Placid, during a recent, private, trip to the US.
“Being in Lake Placid for a training camp is very good for me because this is where I live when I’m not in camp. It’s nice to have the whole team here. We travel so much during the year that it’s great for me to stay at home as much as possible during the offseason”, commented Lake Placid native Tim Burke. Burke, like Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson, grew up outside of the small village in upstate New York that hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1932 and 1980.
While the biathlon stadium in Lake Placid might not be “state of the art”, the area offers outstanding training facilities. The Olympic Training Center (OTC) has a top flight gym and weight room, a treadmill for roller skiing, and a team of physiotherapists and medical staff to handle any injuries or rehabilitation. A new rollerski track and a small shooting range were recently built to help the biathletes in their daily training.
Beyond those facilities, the other opportunities for training seem endless, as Haley Johnson explained. “I think the one thing I like best about Lake Placid is that we can do so much right from our backdoor. Skiing, shooting, running, hiking, and biking are all right here in our small town. When we travel it’s not that easy. Here we don’t have to drive very far or not at all. Biking and hiking is becoming more and more popular here so there are more and more trails. For example we did a four hour bike ride this morning and we started and ended right here at the OTC.”
Burke agreed, stating, “The OTC is a great venue for all of us. I personally can come here and eat, so I spend a lot of time here at the cafeteria (grins). There’s a lot of great staff here, between the weight room and the physical therapy, we have a roller ski lap here, so there’s a lot I can access right from the training center. And the town is really nice for me. I grew up right outside of Lake Placid so I have a lot of friends and family here, I am very comfortable here.”
Of course the athletes want to spend time with friends and family during the few months they actually are able to spend at home. Neither they nor Nilsson think of that as a distraction. “I think it’s the opposite. They all are good at balancing their life. When you do sport and do too much biathlon then it gets boring. Lowell likes to go and play music in the summer and Tim likes the outdoors, fishing and so on. I think this is good.” Johnson explained, “I think it’s really important to train in places that are good for you and that you enjoy for other reasons than just the training camp. For me I think I can be recharged by having these other things beside the training camp.”
Another advantage, at least for the American team, is the affordability of a training camp at Lake Placid. The National Team athletes can stay and eat at the OTC at no cost; a huge advantage in times of a financial crisis when funding is short. For Johnson the OTC is actually her permanent home during the few months she can spend in one place. However, Johnson is very careful not to get overwhelmed by biathlon: “I know that it is really important not to stay at the OTC all the time. So I make a point to get together with friends that live in town, even if it just to have dinner at their house or going out to a coffee or even just participating in local events. Also, a good part of my family lives near here and I am very close to my family and I constantly get to reconnect with them. All of that makes this place a little more real and not nearly like the dorm that it must seem to be.”
All of this made it easy for the athletes to come back from their April and early May vacations to their athletic careers. The first camp of the year was at home; no bags to pack, no meals to cook, and all of the familiar places to train.