LP’s Hochschartner, SL’s Garso competing in Germany

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — A mix of IBU Cup veterans will team with up-and-coming athletes to form the 12-person roster for U.S. Biathlon at the first two IBU Cups of the season that started Thursday in Arber, Germany.

After being delayed due to COVID and with no December racing, around 190 men and 170 women are registered for the IBU Cup events in Arber that run through Jan. 23.

The extra start positions and opportunity for the younger athletes to gain experience comes after the Junior IBU Cup competitions were canceled this season due to the pandemic.

“It’s nice to have this mix because I think the newer athletes can learn a lot from the veterans,” said U.S. Biathlon Director of Athlete Development Tim Burke. “I expect our veterans to be in contention for top results like they did last season. For the newer athletes, it’s all about gaining experience and confidence competing at this level.”

One of those athletes looking to gain experience on their first U.S. Biathlon trip is Jackie Garso of Lake Clear.

“I’m approaching this time in Arber as a learning experience,” Garso said. “I’ve never been on a trip with USBA or to Europe before, and my goals for the season were based around Junior Worlds, not the IBU Cup. Obviously, I’m going to take it seriously and race as hard as I can, but I’m playing with house money a little bit here because I wasn’t expecting to make it at all.”

Garso’s travel companion to Europe, Lucy Hochschartner of Lake Placid, is also making her international biathlon debut.

“This is my first trip with U.S. Biathlon, so I am trying to keep an open mind and focus on the process. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity and so thankful for all my teammates showing me the ropes. I am hoping to get more comfortable with biathlon racing since I come from a Nordic background.”

With the IBU COVID precautions in place, the entire U.S. delegation was tested at home and then again upon arrival at the Munich airport. They will then enter the IBU testing protocols during the event window.

“I am impressed with all of the changes the IBU made to keep teams safe,” Burke said. “Although things look and feel a little different on the ground now, I expect race days to be relatively unchanged.”

World Cup and IBU Cup veteran Hallie Grossman she is most looking forward to the thrill of competition.

“I’m excited to get back to racing,” said Grossman, of Craftsbury, Vermont. “It’s been just over 10 months since I raced last so I’m psyched to do what we have been training for. The skiing and shooting feel the same, other than the mat sweepers wearing masks so you are reminded you’re in a pandemic before each shooting. The hotel we are staying at has done an excellent job with COVID protocols, with distanced tables, teams eating in separate areas, and gloves to go to the buffet.”

Vincent Bonacci, a 20 year-old of Salt Lake City, Utah, is also thankful for the opportunity to be racing during these uncertain times.

“I am going into these races with no expectations,” said Bonacci. “I know the competition here is the toughest of my lifetime, so I am looking to learn as much as possible from my coaches, fellow athletes, and competitors. I am also looking to have a ton of fun, as I am getting to race in 2021 in the midst of a pandemic, so there is honestly nothing to complain about.”

Maddie Phaneuf, who comes from Old Forge and has trained in Lake Placid, is also on the U.S. team.

IBU Cup competition was slated to start Thursday with the women’s 7.5km sprint and the men’s 10km sprint. The full schedule for the next two weekends is below. Following IBU Cups 1 and 2, the U.S. team will travel to Duszniki Zdroj, Poland, to compete in the IBU Open European Championships, Jan. 27-31.

IBU Cup 1

Thursday, January 14

Women’s 7.5km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)

Men’s 10km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Saturday, January 16

Women’s 7.5km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)

Men’s 10km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Sunday, January 17

Women’s 4x6km Relay (5:00 a.m. EST)

Men’s 4×7.5km Relay (8:00 a.m. EST)

IBU Cup 2

Wednesday, January 20

Men’s 15km Short Individual (4:00 a.m. EST)

Women’s 12.5km Short Individual (8:00 a.m. EST)

Friday, January 22

Men’s 10km Sprint (4:30 a.m. EST)

Women’s 7.5km Sprint (8:00 a.m. EST)

Saturday, January 23

Single Mixed Relay (5:00 a.m. EST)

Mixed Relay (7:30 a.m. EST)