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Presque Isle invited to host Biathlon World Cup event in 2016

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Friday's top two finishers, Helena Ekholm (right) of Sweden and Tora Berger of Norway shoot their first prone bout during the I.B.U. World Cup women's 10 kilometer pursuit at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle, Maine on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials with the Nordic Heritage Center and the Maine Winter Sports Center were celebrating the news Thursday that the U.S. Biathlon Association had asked them to host a World Cup event in 2016.

The news was announced on Tuesday, Jane Towle, event director for the 2014 IBU World Junior Biathlon Championships, which is taking place in Presque Isle, said Thursday.

“We are honored,” she said of the opportunity to host world-class competition in the sport, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. “This is huge news for us. If people knew how competitive this process is, especially since there are larger venues in Europe, they would realize how deeply rewarding this is for us.”

In announcing the news, Max Cobb, president and CEO of U.S. Biathlon, said that the Nordic Heritage Center and the organizing committee’s leaders and volunteers had “earned the respect of the International Biathlon Union.”

“Not only is this a great compliment to current and past event organizing committees in central Aroostook and the local volunteers and business communities, these events are a unique opportunity for American athletes to compete in front of an American audience,” he said.

Canmore, Alberta, home of the 1988 Winter Olympics, will join Presque Isle in hosting a World Cup event, setting up a two-week-long North American Tour.

“This is a remarkable honor and continues to establish Aroostook County as a place capable of setting a world-class standard,” said Andy Shepard, president of the Maine Winter Sports Center. “These events are critical to the economic development mission of the Maine Winter Sports Center and create another opportunity to encourage the world to come explore northern Maine’s remarkable natural resources.”

Towle said that before deciding whether to accept the invitation to host the event, the organizing committee will look at the existing infrastructure in the area to make sure that there are enough housing and dining facilities for the athletes, coaches and support staff on the tour.

“As in all our events, the local service-based business community plays a critical role in our ability to host a successful event, and we look forward to reaching out to work with them on a plan which will allow us to accept this incredible opportunity in 2016,” said Towle.

The area has successfully hosted prestigious biathlon events in the past.

A number of World Cup competitions, Junior World Cup competitions and other events have been held at the Nordic Heritage Center and the 10th Mountain Lodge in Fort Kent.

The 2014 IBU Youth/Junior Biathlon World Championships will be held at the Nordic Heritage Center from Feb. 28 to March 7, 2014.

“There are a limited number of World Cup Biathlon competitions awarded each season, and the level of professionalism required to secure one of these events is tremendously high,” said Towle. “We are very proud that the IBU has placed this level of trust in our organization.”

In the weeks ahead, the IBU will release the provisional dates for the 2016 World Cup and the detailed planning with the community can begin.

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