(Host) The Biathlon World Cup is returning to the Northeast, and commentator John Morton predicts an exciting competition.
(Morton) So… you’re still kicking yourself for not making the pilgrimage to Utah two years ago for the Winter Olympics. Thousands of spectators at Soldier Hollow witnessed two weeks of Nordic ski racing at it’s best.
With the advent of sophisticated trail grooming machinery and increased television coverage, Nordic racing is now all about lightening fast skis and head-to-head competition. Forget the image of the solitary Scandinavian border guard, gliding through endless, snow bound forests; today’s Nordic racing is more like NASCAR.
And you’re in luck, because the the most exciting of the Nordic disciplines, biathlon, is returning to the Northeast for two World Cup events; this weekend in Lake Placid, NY, followed by March 3rd through 6th, in Fort Kent, Maine.
In 1973, Lake Placid hosted America’s first Biathlon World Championship. Those were still the days of wooden skis and big bore rifles. It was a time when the Soviet Union dominated the sport, challenged occasionally by a Norwegian or an East German.
In 1987, Lake Placid again hosted a World Championship, that one marked by the unforgettable thrill of America’s Josh Thompson, skiing and shooting his way to a silver medal in the grueling, 20 kilometer event.
A home town favorite in this year’s competition will be Tim Burke, from nearby Paul Smiths, NY. After many years as one of America’s top junior competitors, Tim has shown poise and maturity in his first season as a senior.
The second North American stop for the Biathlon World Cup series will be in Fort Kent, Maine. Further north than Quebec City, Fort Kent provides bountiful snow cover, a brand new competition facility and a community of hardworking, outdoor enthusiasts.
A couple of years ago, a mid-winter thaw sabotaged a national biathlon event at Lake Placid. With less than a week’s notice, volunteers in Fort Kent organized and hosted the competition, earning lavish praise from the athletes, coaches, and the U.S. Biathlon Association.
Now, with plenty of time to prepare, Fort Kent is planning a World Cup debut the Europeans will long remember. Athletes will be housed in a recently constructed dormitory on the campus of the University of Maine at Fort Kent. There will be a mind-boggling array of cultural events, including film festivals, theater presentations, and nearly, round-the-clock musical offerings, many celebrating the region’s Arcadian heritage.
And here’s something that may surprise you: live television coverage of the Biathlon World Cups in Lake Placid and Fort Kent will be viewed, in Europe by 25 million households. That’s roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who watch Monday Night Football.
This is John Morton.
John Morton designs trails and writes about sports. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.