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Home News From tradition to enthusiasm: local fans embracing biathlon in Lake Placid

From tradition to enthusiasm: local fans embracing biathlon in Lake Placid

Winter Games 15 January 2023

At Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s venue during the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, local American fans are particularly fond of biathlon.

Whether it’s because of its similarity with the discipline of sport shooting, which is very popular in the USA, or because it keeps with the tradition of Nordic mountain life, attendees all have a good reason to express their passion for this 60-year-old discipline.

“It’s an interesting combination of sports and it is great to watch,” Michael, 34, exclaims as the biathletes alternate between their cross-country skiing trail and their four 5-shot rifle shooting rounds.

“Wow, they are shooting from so far away,” a youngster from Lake Placid adds.

This enthusiasm from the home crowd can be seen as unexpected, given biathlon is not the sport where the US have performed the most historically compared to other dominant nations like Norway, France and Germany. But it certainly appeals to something different for local fans.

“It reminds us of hunter-gatherers in a way,” a Wisconsin-born woman points out to her partner as the couple watches biathlon for the first time.

A bit further in the stands, a crowd member is already converted to the sport.

“It looks like it preserves the tradition of hunting and life in the mountains of the Nordic countries, and it’s physically extremely impressive. So it has everything to please us.”

Team USA won 6 medals in shooting during the last Summer Olympics and 20 percent of all Olympic gold medals ever attributed in the discipline, making the US the number one country in this sport.

However, biathlon presents its own challenges, as Eddie, a 53-year-old from the region, highlights.

“I’ve attended shooting competitions, but they were nothing like that! It’s hard enough to find the composure just standing still, I cannot imagine after sprinting on skis for so long.”

While witnessing the triumphs of Kazakhstan’s Vadim Kurales and Canada’s Shilo Rousseau in the individual races on Saturday, Eddie and the rest of the American fans who came for the entertainment of the FISU Games were happier than ever as they cheered for local favorites Dulcie Tanguay and Van Ledger.

So will biathlon grow to be a mainstream American sport? Mary, 49, hopes so.

“There was a shooting club where students would go after school when I was growing up, and it was always extremely popular. I would love for biathlon to become the same here, because it really is amazing to see shooting combined with a Nordic sport.”

Written by Louis Gilles, FISU Young Reporter