The nation’s top female biathlete was in Anchorage last week to meet and help coach the Alaskan contenders at the Kincaid Park Biathlon Range.
Deedra Irwin has the best performance of any US biathlete at the Winter Olympics, placing seventh in the Beijing 2022 women’s individual race.
Biathlon is one of the most unique sports featured at the Winter Olympics and a sport in which few Americans have competed at a high international level. It is a combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting.
Irwin was on course to win the country’s first medal of 2022.
“I was one shot away from getting a medal,” Irwin said. “It was really cool and humbling to have that kind of experience on such a big stage.”
She said it “definitely lit a fire” inside her and gave her a lot of confidence for the rest of the World Cup competitions for the next three years in hopes of making it to the 2026 Olympics in Italy. .
The Anchorage Biathlon Club has partnered with the Alaska National Guard to bring them in for a week working with local athletes and ABC Club members.
Three young CBA members are among 12 athletes aged 15 to 18 who have been invited to participate in the United States Biathlon Association’s first elite camp since the pandemic. Elias Soule, Elias Watson and Haley Finch will travel to the same facility in Lake Placid, New York, where Irwin trains.
All three biathletes compete for Service High, but Watson and Finch are homeschooled through the Family Partnership Charter School.
Alaska has the potential to be a great place to develop biathletes due to the high interest in skiing.
“I started skiing when I was 16, so a lot of these kids are way ahead of me and will one day be really good biathletes,” Irwin said. “I arrived quite late in Nordic skiing and biathlon. They’re not very popular in Wisconsin.
This trip marked his first visit to Anchorage and second time to Alaska. She participated in a Nordic ski race in Fairbanks in March 2017, the year she began competing in biathlon.
The ABC said the sport is growing in popularity in Anchorage, and Irwin credits clubs like theirs with its rapid growth.
“I’ve only been in the sport for about four and a half years and since then it’s grown so much,” Irwin said. “It’s been so cool to see how many clubs there are across the United States, how many athletes are getting involved and it makes me really excited for the future because we’re so close to getting that Olympic medal. .”
She says Team USA is building a team that can be more competitive in Europe and the process starts at the youth level by involving more kids early on.
Irwin was initially a Nordic skier and was about to retire from the sport when a friend contacted her and suggested she try biathlon.
“On a whim and by chance, I went to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center and literally tried it out and fell in love with it,” Irwin said. “Four years later, I was able to go to the Olympics and represent the American team.”
She says everything about the sport is “challenging and challenging in a fun way” and says combining skiing and shooting requires some finesse.
“You can always learn something,” Irwin said. “It’s always a humiliating sport to do, so it keeps you going.”
She said when she started the sport she was a much better skier than shooter, but now she has improved her skill to the point that it’s hard to say what she is most proficient at.
“Every race is a little different,” Irwin said. “Some days you ski very fast and don’t shoot well and other days you shoot very well and don’t ski as fast. The days when you can get the perfect combination of a really good ski race and a really good race are when you have those money days.