FORT KENT, Maine — Despite having less than 72 hours to get ready, organizers had everything in place at the 10th Mountain Lodge for the start of the International Biathlon Union World Cup action on Thursday.
But to make sure there are no glitches when the men take to the course for the sprint race starting at 11:30 a.m., organizers held a dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon.
“This is every bit as important as a dress rehearsal for a theatrical production,” Max Saenger, co-founder of the Maine Winter Sports Center, said. “We are going to test out to see how things look on camera.”
Athletes who regularly train with the Maine Winter Sports Center were set to run the course Wednesday with German Olympic gold medalist Sven Fischer.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for those young athletes,” Saenger said. “To ski with someone like Sven is really a great thing.”
Fischer won a total of eight Olympic medals — four gold — and 20 world championships during his 15-year career from 1994 to 2006.
Fischer is in Fort Kent as part of the media team for German television’s ZDT-TV, where he now works as a biathlon commentator.
Allowing the MWSC athletes and Fischer to ski the racecourse in a time-trial race is a crucial component to assuring all is ready at the 10th Mountain Lodge to broadcast the World Cup to Europe and an anticipated television audience in the millions.
“We can check the camera angles on the course and how things look in the stadium,” Saenger said. “Sometimes a banner has to be moved a bit or something else is slightly out of place, and we can make those adjustments today.”
Getting to that point of readiness, Saenger said, was going as smoothly as could be expected.
“Getting everything set up for a race always takes a bit of time,” he said. “But it’s getting there.”
Hundreds of volunteers, media and support staffers were swarming around the 10th Mountain Lodge stadium and course Wednesday putting the final touches on the venue.
Tents and trailers were positioned in the parking lots as technicians dragged miles of cables leading to and from camera platforms and video vans.
All work began late Sunday as competition wrapped up at the World Cup races in Presque Isle, and all race equipment was immediately moved about 48 miles to Fort Kent.
That meant truck and trailer loads of targets, fencing, rifle racks, mats and lane markers all had to be driven to Fort Kent in the middle of a snowstorm.
“It went really well and really quickly,” Darla Nesbitt, competition co-chief, said. “Within three hours of everything getting here we had it unloaded, and then we spent all day Monday and yesterday setting everything up.”
Nesbitt’s crew was in charge of ensuring everything was ready on the range for that mock race Wednesday afternoon.
“We have to be prepared and treat it just as if it is a real race going on,” she said. “It’s really important so they can get the proper camera placement on the range.”
One of those range workers is Virginia Nadeau who was thrilled to be part of the organized chaos on Wednesday.
“I volunteered when the World Cup came in 2004, but they had me working with transportation in the garage so I never saw any of this,” Nadeau said. “This is totally unbelievable and makes me so proud of the people working here.”
Nadeau said she was kept busy with fellow range volunteers placing targets and the so-called “soldiers,” black and yellow markers that delineate the shooting lanes.
“We must have placed and repositioned each one 16 times,” she said with a laugh. “It’s not a matter of simply sticking them into the ground, they have to be set in just so [and] there’s a real art to it.”
Competition continues in Fort Kent through Sunday.