2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships Come to Maine For U.S. Debut
If you plan on attending the 2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships in northern Maine this winter, you may want to bring your autograph book.
While none of the 250 or so competitors in the international event will be participating in the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics the following week in Torino, Italy, some are expected to be serious contenders four years down the line at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“This is their stepping stone to the next level, which is the Olympics and the World Cup.” explains biathlon championship event manager, Melanie Stewart. “The athletes you are going to see here are definitely the next Olympians.”
Competitors in the biathlon championship represent 29 nations, and are between the ages of 16 and 20. Several of the members expected to compete on the United States team are Maine athletes, hailing from towns like Caribou, Fort Kent and Fort Fairfield.
A national pastime in Europe—particularly Scandinavian nations—and in Russia, comparable to NASCAR or Major League Baseball in the United States, biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The sport is unique in that one minute athletes are pounding up a hill on their skis—hearts thumping and breathing hard—, and the next they are completely motionless and focused as they aim their rifles at the target.
Held in Presque Isle, the 2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships mark the first time the event has been held in the United States. Last year’s competition was held in Finland.
The events will be held at the Nordic Heritage Center (NHC), which has quickly established itself as one of the nation’s foremost biathlon facilities. In 2005, the center hosted the U.S. World Junior Biathlon Team Trials.
The center’s stadium is unique in that it is the only venue in the world where the skiers’ penalty loop circles the NHC’s building. With new bleacher construction and other venue improvements, Stewart says the more than 20,000 spectators who are expected will be right in the center of the action.
“It’s an incredibly exciting sport to watch here.” she says. “You get all wrapped up in it. Spectators can line the trails and they’ll be so close to the athletes you could reach out and touch them.”
The town of Presque Isle and other nearby communities are rolling out the red carpet, not just for athletes and the 200 plus coaches, wax technicians and other support staff, but for the spectators as well.
Events coinciding with the championship, which is sponsored by T.D. Banknorth, include a Warren Miller film festival, a kickoff gala, a parade and opening ceremonies on Friday, Jan. 27 that will include a parade of nations. Ski trails will also be open throughout the event, and each day, the race trails will be opened to the public after the competition is over. Admission to all races will be free and the event is completely volunteer run.
“We are fired up and we are ready.” Stewart says. “We are going to make this an incredible event for the athletes and for the spectators.”
For more information about the 2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships, www.nordicheritagebiathlon.org or call 207-227-7555.