Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Alone on the track

Alone on the track

Nothing is ever dull in the life of an athlete traveling alone in the world, especially a woman with a rifle. This season in particular has been a fun filled jumble of misunderstandings and complicated adventures. This season has also showed me that everything that happens determines the next set of events, thus in my circumstance, creating a snowball effect of disaster. Just to be clear, the reason why it is so important for me to race in World Cups is because I can only make my Olympic qualification in world cups. I cannot do it in European cup races (IBU races). This is the reason for my complete obsession with racing in these races.

The races at the start of the season did not go well due to a warped barrel which could no longer shoot straight in cold weather. Because of this I bought a new barrel- a shiny, new sprint barrel- nice and light making me think it will be faster in skiing, and still a good shot. Wrong. Nice for skiing, disastrous for shooting. The weight difference was too big.  The bad performance in Hochfilzen World Cup 2 lead me back to Switzerland for a needed mental break and some good training days, and then hoping on a night train from St. Moritz, Switzerland, to Bled, Slovenia. A lovely trip alone with skis, rifle, and personal bag and 5 platform changes.

Once again my performance was dismal to say the least and the necessary qualification was not completed meaning I could not continue on World Cup. Thus meaning I must go to Otepaa, Estonia and Ostrov, Russia to try and make top 40 and 12% behind the leaders. I sent all my paperwork and everything for my Russian visa on December 17th- plenty of time to get it before going to Estonia. Or so I thought.

On December 20th, while I was in Ridnaun racing an Italian cup, I received the confirmation from the Organizing committee of the event that I could go to Russia. Perfect! I received all the necessary paperwork and confirmation numbers on December 23rd, and immediately prepared passport photos and all my documents together for the embassy in Munich. Now what? How do I get to Munich? I have no car and it is a 7 hour train ride, and it is Christmas! I know, I will send it to my friend in Munich and he can take it to the embassy for me! Cunning plan!

Five days later, the day the embassy closed for Russian Christmas, even though sent with a signature mail, my passport arrived in Munich- too late for my friend to take it to the embassy. When will the offices open again? January 8th, 2013- The day after I was supposed to travel to Russia for the races. Problem? No way! I will just have to make my qualification in the Estonian races and not go to Russia.

After taking a train for 8 hours from Switzerland to Munich airport, and then a plane to Riga, Latvia, staying the night in Riga and then taking a bus to Otepaa, Estonia- I arrived 33 hours later- Sans passport. My friend was in Austria when I went through Munich and there was no possibility of me getting my passport. At the moment, this was not a problem as I have 2 possibilities to make the qualification.

Fist set of races-15km individual- awful weather and a mad wind blowing bullets left right and centre. I missed 5 out of 20 and placed 25th! Not an amazing result but I achieved one of the qualifications. My percentage? 14.2%. Shoot, one more hit and I would have had it. No worries, there is tomorrow to do it.

The sprint- I hit 4 our of 5 in the prone and coming in for standing I was a scared little girl. First three targets went down, and then a miss. Oh no, Come on Sarah focus. A hit, yes! Put my rifle on and double check- only 3 hits. The last one didn’t go down. It had felt so good though! 7/10 targets hit, and a great ski put me in 41st place, 2 minutes and 54 seconds behind. Percentage? 12.9%. 12 seconds off of making the qualification. .9 of a percent. That one target that I thought went down was my ticket to the next set of World Cup races. Now what?!?

At 5pm on Sunday night, the time my shuttle was leaving for Riga, Latvia, I made the decision to stay in Otepaa. I had yet another cunning plan!

Step 1: Get my friend in Munich to send my passport by overnight courier to me in Estonia. Pay 100 Euros.
Step 2: Receive passport on Tuesday.
Step 3: Embassy opens. Go to the embassy in Tartu, Estonia and apply for an express visa. Pay 120 Euros.
Step 4: Get driven to Russian border with rifle and skis.
Step 5: Go through Estonian customs, hoping not to get arrested for being in Europe for longer than 3 months.
Step 6: Walk 300m across Russian border with rifle.
Step 7: Go through Russian customs. Hoping not to be kidnapped or put in prison for who know what. (Although being turned into a Russian spy could be neat).
Step 8: Police take rifle. I get a transport to Ostrov.
Step 9: Race and make necessary qualification.
Step 10: Celebrate the success of this cunning plan!

Just think, What if…

I had bought a different barrel.

I had been able to get a barrel weight on my rifle.

my skis had better wax in my Otepaa races.

I had a car to get to the embassy.

Or if I had a coach.

Or if I had just hit 1 more target.

Just think. What if…


  1. Respect for managing all of it. Just being a biathlete is a full-time job for some people, but you are a World Cup team all-in-one.
    I hope all works out in Ostrov.
    Btw - they have these barrel weights (http://www.schiesssport-buinger.de/shooting/Anschuetz-barrel-weight-Biathlon-1827F-4750 etc), that you can use. Or tape some coins or smth else heavy but small to your barrel - have seen also that. Not so elegant, but still working

  2. Finger crossed, Sarah. Hope to see you in the final results of the Ostrov races, and to see you being on a high place there.
    Best wishes from Russia!


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