Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself?
SS: My name is Sara Studebaker and I’m 28 years old. I’m originally from Boise, Idaho USA and have been on the US Biathlon Team since 2007. I competed in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and am heading to Sochi to compete again this February.
MW: How did you become a Biathlete?
SS: I grew up in a very active family. I started alpine skiing at age 3 and started training for and competing in cross-country skiing when I was 11 years old. I got into biathlon after watching it in the Nagano 1998 Olympics and asking a ski coach of mine (who used to compete in biathlon) all about what biathlon was. He found a friend and I a recruitment camp for US Biathlon that we attended that summer and I started doing biathlon alongside cross-country skiing throughout high school. When I went to college, I put biathlon aside and focused on skiing; skiing 4 years on the varsity team at Dartmouth College and helping them to an NCAA Championship my senior year in 2007. After graduating, I was accepted onto the US Biathlon Development Team and started training and competing full-time that summer (2007).
MW: What is it to be a Biathlete?
SS: Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. Basically, you ski loops of varying length (depending on the event) and then stop and shoot at targets 50 meters away, and then continue back on course for more skiing. Depending on the race, you either do a 150 meter penalty loop for each miss, or one-minute is added to your time.
Biathlon is a tough sport because it combines the physical rigors of Nordic skiing with the mental aspect of shooting. You have to be able to go your hardest out on the ski course and then calm yourself down quickly and hit 5 targets the size of Oreo cookies! It’s a crazy sport, but very exciting.
MW: What competitions have you won?
SS: When I first started and was on the North American Cup circuit, I won several races. In 2008 I was the overall North American Champion. Since 2009 I have been mostly on the World Cup and unfortunately have not yet won any competition there! My best results individually have been 2 top-15 results (14th 2011 World Cup Presque Isle, Maine, USA; 15th 2012 World Cup Kontiolahti, FIN), and several top-20 results including a 17th place in the Individual race at the 2011 World Championships in Khanty-Mansyisk, RUS. Our team has also had 2 top-8 relay results this season (some of the best for US Women in recent history!).
MW: Tell me about being in the 2010 Winter Olympics?
SS: Competing in Vancouver in 2010 was such an amazing experience. Because I am from Idaho, which is a days drive from Vancouver, I had lots of friends and family come to see me compete. Not only was it the realization of a life-long dream to be an Olympian, but it was made extra special by all the people I got to share it with. I had some of my best results of my career at the time there, too, which was exciting.
MW: Now your going to the 2014 Winter Olympics how did you qualify?
SS: The final round of qualification for the US Biathlon Olympic Team happened at the IBU Cup (a step below the World Cup) in Ridnaun, Italy just after New Year’s. There were 4 races spread over 2 weekends and from those races the best 3 women and 2 men were chosen to fill the Olympic Team. I had some solid results there, placing 9th and top American in one race.
MW: Who are you looking most to compete with?
SS: Because our team has had such strong results recently, we are especially looking forward to the relay competition. It’s always fun to compete as a team instead of like normal, as an individual. Our team is really close and we have drawn strength and good results as a result of our efforts to be a tight group. I think we have an excellent chance to do well in the relay not only because we are in the best shape of the season, but also because we will work together and for each other to have a strong finish!
MW: What is USA record for wining Biathlete in the past Winter Olympics?
SS: The US has never won a medal in biathlon at the Olympics. Last year at World Championships, Tim Burke won a silver medal, and this past weekend at the final World Cup before Sochi, Susan Dunklee was 4th place. So we are very close to a medal. This is a very exciting time for US Biathlon and I hope we will be able to compete to our potential and bring home the first medal for US Biathlon from Sochi!
MW: What are your plans after the Winter Olympics?
SS: Immediately after the Games we still have 3 more weeks of World Cup racing, so I will continue to compete through March. After that, I am not sure. I have not yet decided whether I will retire after this year or continue to compete longer. Probably this is my last Olympics though, and I look forward to making it memorable and special.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
SS: Check out biathlon in the Sochi games! It’s an incredibly exciting sport to watch and for USA fans we hope to make you proud!