DiscoverHeartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast
Heartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast

Heartbeat: US Biathlon Podcast

Author: US Biathlon

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Heartbeat takes you inside the world of the unique Olympic sport of biathlon - a sport that combines the heart-pumping aerobics of cross country skiing combined with the precision element of marksmanship. The US Biathlon podcast brings you close to the athletes to dissect one of the most popularity of Olympic Winter Games sports.
32 Episodes
Two years ago Tara Geraghty-Moats was the number one women's nordic combined skier in the world when she made the call to return to her biathlon roots. Today, she's making her way through the IBU Cup, World Cup and now World Championships in Oberhof. The Vermont native who trains with Craftsbury Green tells her story of biathlon to ski jumping to nordic combined and back to biathlon on Heartbeat.
At any BMW IBU World Cup, the wax cabin is the heart and soul of the competition. U.S. Biathlon's legendary service technician Fede Fontana takes Heartbeat listeners behind the scenes inside the wax cabin in Antholz just hours before the competition to give us insights into his background and the role of his service team.
This week 1,500 athletes from 50 nations are competing in Lake Placid at the biggest multisport winter event in America since the 2002 Olympics as the Adirondack village takes on tones of its own 1980 Games. On the eve of the World University Games, International University Sports Federation Deputy Secretary General Sarah Lewis talked to Heartbeat about the Games and FISU, a global organization that brings the world of college sport together internationally.
A small college just outside the Olympic village of Lake Placid is starting to shake up the biathlon and nordic ski world. U.S. Biathlon has named Paul Smith's College its Official Higher Education Partner. PSC coach Matt Dougherty talks with Heartbeat about the vision for the new program, as well as the upcoming FISU World University Games.
A key component of U.S. Biathlon's 2030 strategic plan is building the biathlon base. Olympian John Farra knows that landscape well. His new role as sport development director is focused on growing and supporting clubs, innovating talent ID and transfer and building education for coaches. Just a few months into the role, he talks enthusiastically about the support he's seeing in the field.
S3 Ep5 - Armin AuchentellarTom Kelly: [00:00:00] And today, Heartbeat is taking you to the heart of Vuokatti. Finland. The training camp for the US biathlon team. Armin Auchentaller, the head coach for the men's and the women's team. Armin, thank you for joining us on Heartbeat. Armin Auchentaller: [00:00:13] Thank you. Thank you for inviting me. Tom Kelly: [00:00:16] So tell us about the conditions in Vuokatti. It sounds like training has been going very well. Armin Auchentaller: [00:00:21] Yeah, well, Vuokatti has provided a lot of manmade snow from last season, from the snow farming. And we had since [00:00:30] we arrived to Finland, nine kilometers, nine K of mammoth snow. And it's it's it was awesome. Made it look like it looks like it was one of the better places in Scandinavia this season. So we were very lucky to choose, actually, this place to go to. Tom Kelly: [00:00:49] Tell us a little bit about the snow farming for folks who might not understand this. This is actually snow that has been preserved from last season. How does that work? Armin Auchentaller: [00:00:59] Yeah, [00:01:00] they produced the snow over the over the winter. Of course, when temperatures are are the right ones and deep. So they produce it and they they make a huge snow pile. They cover it with wood, wood chips, wet chips, and basically they cover it also with a special material and preserve it over the summer. And once it's time, usually [00:01:30] here in Vuokaiit in Finland, they put the snow out around the end of October to make sure that people can train and ski early, fairly early on. Tom Kelly: [00:01:43] Do you have other teams training in Vuokatti right now? I imagine that the whole world is looking for good tracks to to ski on. Armin Auchentaller: [00:01:50] Yeah, actually, we had the German biathlon World Cup team here, man and woman. So we had actually good training conditions along with them. And [00:02:00] our athletes actually could ski with them and look what they do. And so was the Japanese team was here. Some Ukrainians are here. It's it's a good training environment. Tom Kelly: [00:02:14] Good and training has been going well for the team. Armin Auchentaller: [00:02:17] Trains is going really well. So far. We have done good work. Last weeks, ten days and everything is [00:02:30] going in a good direction. Tom Kelly: [00:02:31] So far. Good. Well, let's talk about your background, Armin. You've recently taken over as both the head men's and women's coach. You've been with the U.S. team a couple of times and we'll get to that. But let's go back to your growing up in Italy. You had the great opportunity to grow up and really the heart of biathlon in Antholz, Italy. Tell us about growing up and how you initially pursued your passion as an athlete in biathlon. Armin Auchentaller: [00:02:57] Basically, I started skiing for three [00:03:00] years and until we have slopes, the alpine slopes, but close by, But we have also a lot of cross-country, cross-country possibilities. And then around around when I was like eight or nine years old, I started basically with cross-country skiing and with nine, ten years around there. I don't remember actually. Well, it's a long time ago, but that's where I started with biathlon [00:03:30] early on, early on. Tom Kelly: [00:03:32] Good. And how did you progress as an athlete? What level did you reach? Armin Auchentaller: [00:03:36] I reached a national team level and I raised my last two years on the European Cup, which is the IBU Cup from from the modern times. So that's where where I ended up and was not a long career, but career with a lot of experiences, good experiences, which [00:04:00] I can use now as a coach. Tom Kelly: [00:04:03] How did you make it into coaching? I know a lot of athletes choose to go that route. Was this something that you had wanted to do to become a coach and to lead others with the experience that you'd gained in your career? Armin Auchentaller: [00:04:14] Actually, my former coach wanted to stop coaching and he just when I stopped, he just basically said, Hey, you should you should look into coaching and I want to stop and you should take take over, take over the whole [00:04:30] ski club. Back then it was the ski club for a months and give it a try. He thought I would do well, and I said, I'm not really sure, but we can. We can give it a shot. And here I am still still working on. That was back in 1992. So basically really is 30 years in coaching. Tom Kelly: [00:04:51] One of your big breaks, I think was when you actually had an opportunity in 2009 to come and be a shooting coach for us. Biathlon. How did that come [00:05:00] to pass and what was your experience in the five years that you coached in with the American team? Armin Auchentaller: [00:05:06] It was an amazing time. I mean, I got to know awesome people, different, different country to work with and different athletes, different mentality. I learned a lot along the way. It was it was a really, really, really good time. Tom Kelly: [00:05:28] And then tell us about [00:05:30] your career. There was a gap where you coach to elsewhere. Tell us a little bit about that period from 2014 until you returned to the U.S. in 2018 and 2014. Armin Auchentaller: [00:05:42] I was asked from the Swiss biathlon team to be the head coach for the women there, and I did that for four years. I led that group to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, and we had also there were really, really good, [00:06:00] really good times, also some good results. And basically we we built up a team which was not existing before it was there was no official women's team. In 2014. They created that team and I had the chance to, to work with them and yeah, get some get some good results in the end. Tom Kelly: [00:06:22] And in 2018 you had an opportunity to return to America to coach the women's team. Was that an opportunity that you really [00:06:30] welcomed to come back to America and coach with the U.S. Biathlon Team? Armin Auchentaller: [00:06:34] Yeah, definitely. There was still a lot of people I knew from before and and it was a pleasure to come back and it was like an honor to be asked again if I would join the team and really appreciate the the offer they made and to come back actually, and I didn't hesitate. I just said, okay, let's do it. Tom Kelly: [00:06:59] In these past [00:07:00] four years, you really oversaw several generations of U.S. Women's Biathletes Susan Dunklee ultimately retiring from her career, a whole new crew of people coming through. How would you characterize the women's team over the last four years? Armin Auchentaller: [00:07:21] The last four years we had. A couple of great results, I would say. I mean, with different with different people starting [00:07:30] from Susan Dunklee's medal at the World Championships in Antholz. Luckily, at my home, that was really nice. Really nice side effect to do it at the World Championships in athletes. Clare Egan's podium in in the mass start in Holmenkollen was also a big achievement. And then Joanne Reid, who had in her season the 10th place in a master and a 15th place in the sprint. Really, [00:08:00] really good results also for her. And last but not least, Deirdre Irwin with a seventh place which resulted in being the best, best Olympic result from from American ever, ever done so far. Tom Kelly: [00:08:20] So let's look ahead to Kontiolahti. The World Cup begins on the 29th of November. You have an unprecedented five women's starts. [00:08:30] And let's start with the women's team. You've never before had five women starting this season for the four, the US biathlon team. Can you give us a rundown on first of all, how did it come about that you ended up with those five starts? And who are the five that we can look for on the starting line in cocktail party next week for the women? Armin Auchentaller: [00:08:48] Yeah, we have the first time in in history we have five start, but we have also to be fair and honest we would have probably only four. [00:09:00] It's just because Russia and Russia got a start. Yes, I would say so. We would we would actually start with four. But nonetheless, it's a first. It's a first. And we try to use this opportunity to give people a chance. We will have three, three ladies starting the first time in their career on the World Cup, which is Kelsey Dickinson, Chloe Levins and [00:09:30] Tara Geraghty, Moats with the two, I would say experienced Joanne Reid and Deidra Irwin on their side. So those are the five who will start in Kontiolahti. Tom Kelly: [00:09:45] The result from Deidra Irwin at the Olympics. We had her on the Heartbeat podcast a few weeks ago, was really an amazing step. She comes from my home state of Wisconsin, so I'm very proud of her. But she's really made [00:10:00] big progress now over the last two seasons. Armin Auchentaller: [00:10:03] Yeah. She works really, really hard, I must say. And she is committed and tries to challenge herself every single day. And I think she is even more hungry than ever after this result from last season. And I think she she is aware that she can do even more than that. And I see her in training very motivated to do to do the next [00:10:30] step and push the limits even more than she did she ever did. Tom Kelly: [00:10:35] So she and Joanne Reid now are essentially the elder statesmen on the team. They are the veterans, even though they are both relatively early in their career. But how important is it to have athletes like Deidre? And I would say probably particularly Joanne, because she has a little bit more time on the World Cup. How important is that for the newcomers, Kelsey, Chloe and Tara, who are making their World [00:11:00] Cup debuts? Armin Auchentaller: [00:11:02] It's always important to have like more experienced people on the ground because it's just the experience, the daily experience you need to gather over the years. And it's easy for for veterans column vet
Amidst all the biathletes training at Soldier Hollow in October, one stood out. After being sidelined for nearly the entire Olympic season with complications from COVID, she was bouncing back strong with a smile on her face heading into the 2022-23 season. Heartbeat sat down with Levins at the end of the camp as she prepared to get back to Europe with a healthy body and strong mental attitude.
A year ago, the Olympic season was a great unknown for Deedra Irwin, an up-and-coming biathlete. Perseverance and consistency paid off, as Irwin earned a trip to Beijing where she recorded the best finish ever for a Team USA biathlete. Irwin spoke with Heartbeat at the end of the October pre-season camp in Utah's Soldier Hollow, eager to take the momentum into the IBU World Cup biathlon tour.
For over three decades, Max Cobb's leadership of U.S. Biathlon set a standard for Olympic sports organizations helping lead the sport to success and a solid future. As he prepares to take on leadership of the International Biathlon Union, Max talked with Heartbeat about his career, his philosophies of positivity in leadership and what he sees in the future for one of the Olympic Winter Games' most fascinating sports.
Growing up as a cross country ski racer in Idaho, Sara Studebaker-Hall didn't give officiating too much of a thought. But a helpful mentor pointed her in the right direction after her two-Olympic career with U.S. Biathlon. Today, she's the first U.S. woman to achieve IBU technical delegate certification. Here Sara's story and her encouragement to others on how to follow their pathway
In his World Cup finale at Holmenkollen this year, Leif Nordgren was hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates, celebrating a distinguished career that took him to three Olympics. Leif talks to Heartbeat about his pathway to biathlon and what a decade on the international tour meant to him, and his plans to remain with the Vermont Army National Guard as a pilot - as well as the excitement of watching from Beijing as wife Caitlin gave birth to their first child back in Vermont.
Both Susan Dunklee and Clare Egan had their share of top international results. But as they retire from the international tour to pursue the next chapter of their lives, both will be remembered most for the spirit and leadership they brought to biathlon. In this episode of Heartbeat, we'll hear from Susan and Clare as they ski down memory lane, speak to their futures and take us inside their own legacies in the sport.
Beijing Recap

Beijing Recap


The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games provided some strong highlights for the U.S. Biathlon Team. Heartbeat explores Beijing with US Biathlon High Performance Director Lowell Bailey and recaps highlights of the Youth and Junior World Championships at Soldier Hollow with Development Director Tim Burke.
A native of Minnesota's Iron Range, Salmela had a strong career as an athlete on the U.S. Biathlon Team, then as a coach with the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. He is most noted for his broadcast voice with NBC and Peacock TV, where he will be calling his fifth Olympics for the network at Beijing.Salmela has been at the microphone for cross country skiing and biathlon for the network. But his most famous call was his masterful and exuberant commentary as Jessie Diggins battled Stine Nilsson of Sweden to the finish for cross country gold in 2018.Tune in to NBC and Peacock TV to hear Chad Salmela's commentary of the Olympics in Beijing.
Biathlon will be one of the most viewed events at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. And it comes with long history, from the days of hunters on skis with bows and arrows 1,500 years ago to the military patrol event at the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Art Stegen, one of the foremost historians on the sport, joins Heartbeat for some fascinating history taking us from times of old to the modern Olympics and how biathlon forged its pathway as one of the Games' most popular events. Stegen, a New York state native, is the author of Unique and Unknown: The Story of Biathlon in the United States.
Paul Schommer wasted no time in November, qualifying for an Olympic spot for Beijing at the opening races of the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon. The Wisconsin native had a promising career as a wrestler in high school, before discovering cross country skiing. While at St. Scholastica College, he found biathlon. Schommer is also known as the visionary behind Biathlon Uncharted, his. YouTube channel where he tells the inside story of biathlon and life with the U.S. Biathlon Team.
Dickinson is a fascinating young athlete. She was just six when her parents followed family friends in a move to Winthrop, Wash. at a time when the community was starting to make a splash as a premier nordic center in America. Cross country skiing became a way of life, with junior racing and high school as she forged her path in the sport. For Dickinson, her joy of shooting came early on an impromptu range. And while she followed her skiing dreams to Sun Valley after high school, she always kept biathlon in the back of her mind. She was recruited by biathlete and coach Chad Salmela to ski at St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. and quickly discovered another cultural hotbed of the sport in the Midwest.Biathlon ultimately became her sport direction, moving her way up the ranks from biathlon Junior World Championships to becoming a regular on the IBU Cup. In early January, she'll be one of a select group of U.S. athletes battling for the final Olympic spots for a spot in Beijing.One of the influencing factors in Dickinson's career has been women coaches, going back to her days in the Methow Valley and continuing on at St. Scholastic with Maria Stuber. She's channeled that passion into an organization, the Women Ski Coaches Association, which works to develop, retain, and advance women in ski coaching leadership.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Deedra Irwin loved to run. She had never heard of cross country skiing. But a friend introduced her to the sport as a winter training opportunity. After a strong high school and college career at Michigan Tech, she was ready to retire until another friend, biathlete Joanne Reid, introduced her to biathlon. Now in the national guard biathlon program, Irwin is a rising star for U.S. Biathlon. Heartbeat explores her pathway and what made biathlon so exciting for her, and the opportunities both U.S. Biathlon and the national guard are providing her.
Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke grew up together in Lake Placid, both finding their passion in biathlon. After strong careers that saw them each win World Championship medals, they are still together leading the next generation of biathletes onto their pathway to success. Lowell and Tim explore their career successes, but also look forward to the future of U.S. Biathlon in this episode of Heartbeat.
Here’s a snapshot of the Heartbeat interview with Sean Doherty.How important is your camp at Soldier Hollow?One of the big things is just it's great pre-season with the altitude here. Coming out for three weeks really gives us a nice physiological benefit as we plan on also the Beijing Games being at a similar elevation. The scenery helps keep the focus fresh. And it's like this camp kind of marks the final push of the dryland training season. So it's a nice kind of capstone event. Come out to Utah, better weather typically than the Northeast, you finish off this training Season, you Get to see some new places and let's say, just a great venue to train in.What was your pathway into biathlon?I started out getting more involved in cross country skiing. And then a family friend of ours kind of planted the bug in my ear. He connected me with some events or races. And then I did some clinics and some other events. And then I met Art (Stegen), a member of the board, and then he introduced me to Algis Shalna in Jericho. And from there, I started really pursuing it, really training, in high school, but training pretty seriously for it and kind of making it a goal and then was able to qualify for the Junior World Championships team. And then once I saw competition in Europe, I was all in. This is what I wanted to do. This is great stuff. So that's the short version. The road all the way in. So, you joined the National Guard?Yes, right - joined the Army and became a member of the National Guard Biathlon Team, which is a really cool program, a really unique program that allows us to be supported through the military biathlon team, which is actually a pretty common thing in biathlon. We have a World Military Championships at the end of March, right after the World Cup in Oslo. There's a lot of career benefits after biathlon to joining the army and also the ability to to receive a great level of support independent of the national team. It gives you a much stronger sense of job security that is often hard to find as a high level skier so those were a lot of the factors to go into it. It's been great.Now that your girlfriend Tara Geraghty-Moats is returning to biathlon, do you talk shop?We talk racing all the time, that's one of the great things we have in common. We both love to compete. We both love to race and to study the game. You know, there's a lot of similarities between competition in many different events, and it's fun. Now that she's coming back to biathlon, we talk a lot of shooting. I really enjoy it because it's great dialogue and just fun to sit around sometimes and discuss the fine details of the struggle of biathlon.
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