FORT KENT, Maine — More than 40 athletes from around the United States and Canada will be in Fort Kent this weekend for the Biathlon North American Cup No. 3 races at 10th Mountain Ski Center.
The men’s and women’s sprint races Saturday and mass start Sunday each begin at 10 a.m. and are part of the five-race North American Biathlon Championship circuit.
It’s the first major sporting event at the St. John Valley venue for 2012 and the first since Fort Kent hosted World Cup biathlon last March.
“Everything is set and we are ready to go,” Nancy Thibodeau, 10th Mountain event director, said Tuesday morning. “The athletes should begin arriving Thursday and Friday.”
There will be some familiar faces racing the Fort Kent trails, including Maine Winter Sports Center team members Beth Ann Chamberlain of Caribou, Catrina Howe of New Hampshire and Kamran Husain and Coty Johnson of Fort Kent, both on the MWSC’s youth team.
Andrea Mayo, formerly of MWSC and now racing for Biathlon Alberta, also will be back on her hometown course competing this weekend.
Plenty of new faces also will make sure the races go off without a hitch.
“We’ve had a lot of turnover with volunteers,” Thibodeau said. “There has been a real changing of the guards.”
Among them are new Chief of Range Eric Bouchard, Chief of Stadium Leonard Pelletier, Chief of Course Sherry Dubis and Chief of Timing Julie Daigle.
“This is the perfect event for them to get their feet wet,” Thibodeau said. “It’s amazing how much training there is to learn the set up and then learn the rules and how to apply those rules for fair competition.”
While the event allows the public an opportunity to watch world-class athletes in action, Thibodeau is quick to point out that the trails at 10th Mountain — as at all the MWSC’s ski venues — are for everyone.
“These venues were created to promote a healthy lifestyle and to show kids by example they can have fun outside skiing or snowshoeing in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer,” she said.
Arguably one of the best examples of what participating in MWSC programs can produce is 24-year-old Russell Currier of Stockholm.
This past weekend Currier placed 6th at the World Cup 10-kilometer sprint in Novo Mesto, Czech Republic.
Prior to that race the former MWSC skier had never cracked the top 50 at a World Cup event.
“Young people can look at Russ and what he’s accomplished and say, ‘Hey, I can do that, too,’” Thibodeau said. “These athletes have a real impact as role models on kids.”
This weekend’s North American races are free to the public and parking is available at the venue, located off Route 11 just south of Fort Kent.