FORT KENT, Maine – Some of North America’s top biathletes are in northern Maine this week for the North American Cup and US National Biathlon Championships set to run Thursday through Sunday.
A handful of athletes were at the 10th Mountain Lodge Tuesday morning for the unofficial training day with the bulk of the 67 competitors expected to arrive in time for the start of official training today.
“This event replaces the World Cup races we lost,” Kathy Mayo, 10 Mountain Lodge events’ manager said. “But we should have the World Cup back here in 2011.”
Due to scheduling changes and time conflicts with the 2010 Olympic training year, the biathlon World Cup slated for Fort Kent for the start of this month was cancelled.
Fort Kent first hosted the World Cup race in 2004.
In the meantime, area volunteers have their hands full preparing for and running three days of international biathlon races for senior men and women, masters men and women, junior men and women and youth.
Competition begins Thursday with the sprint races at 10 a.m. Friday is another training day with the pursuit competition set for 10 a.m. Saturday with two-minute interval starts.
The races wrap up with the pursuit mass start races on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Coinciding with the US Championships and NorAms is the first Maine State Biathlon Championships Saturday afternoon aimed at novice athletes participating in club programs around the state.
Time has also been set aside Saturday afternoon for a citizen’s competition for anyone – regardless of age – wanting to try their hands at biathlon.
Fans can expect to see some familiar faces on the Fort Kent range, according to Mayo. Tracy and Lanny Barnes, who trained at 10th Mountain prior to their 2006 Winter Olympics appearance, will take part in competition this week in addition to Denise Teela of Alaska, Leif Nordgren and Wynn Roberts of Minnesota and top Canadian skier Jessica Sedlock.
Local biathlete Grace Boutot of Fort Kent, fresh off her silver medal win at the Youth/Junior World Championships in Canmore, Alberta, is also in Fort Kent this week for the races along with Stockholm’s Russell Currier.
“This is certainly a precursor for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver,” Mayo said. “It’s the last event of the season and coaches will be looking at how the athletes finish it off.”
10th Mountain volunteer and events secretary Nancy Thibodeau had just returned from working a World Cup biathlon race in Vancouver and Tuesday was turning her attention to the Fort Kent races as she tried to adjust to the three-hour time difference.
“To have the US National and NorAms here is just fantastic,” Thibodeau said. “We’re going to have some high level athletes here and it’s going to be some great competition.”
Out on the range Susan Dunklee, a member of the USBA development team, was getting some time in honing her shooting skills.
“I’m just in from racing at Lake Placid,” Dunklee said as she re-loaded her specialized .22-caliber rifle. “I’m really excited to be racing here.”
Joining her on the course was teammate Marty Smith.
“I was here three years ago,” Smith said. “We are going up against some of the big guns this week with top skiers coming in from Minnesota, but it should be fun.”
Watching as the skiers rounded the course coming into the shooting range, Mayo, who also serves as the event’s chief of timing, was visibly impressed with the athletes’ performances.
“These are the up and coming stars in the sport,” she said.